GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Students in Ryan Hudson's Greenhouse and Landscape Management class have more to lose than a lesson if they skip class.
Each student invests $5 per share in up to four shares in a greenhouse cooperative as part of the class at Fruita Monument High School. Students germinate and grow vegetables and flowers in two greenhouses at the school, then sell the finished products in the community. If the project is a success, students earn their money back and reinvest any profits.
"It's a great opportunity because the students have buy-in," Hudson said. "The better they apply lessons in class about germination, growing and pest control, the more money they make."
The greenhouse class is one of 17 Fruita Monument agriculture courses focused on science, mechanics or sustainability highlighted in a new report, "Advancing Environmental Literacy in Schools: Success Stories Across Colorado." Fruita Monument is one of nine Colorado schools featured in the report, which was compiled by University of Colorado at Denver graduate students in conjunction with the sustainability-promoting nonprofit Alliance for Sustainable Colorado and the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, a professional organization for environmental teachers.
The report's authors selected schools based on their commitment to environmental education, quality of courses and ability to keep clubs and programs running with sustainable funding. Fruita Monument made the short list by offering agriculture classes that incorporate hands-on experiences; supporting a Recycling Club, Composting Club, and the state's largest FFA chapter; and for implementing numerous energy- and cost-saving projects, including installation of a high-tech pool cover to reduce annual heating and water costs by 46 percent and shrink water consumption by 53 percent a year, according to the report.
Clubs and classes that focus on sustaining food and product growth, environmental stewardship and conservation are a natural fit for Fruita Monument, given its location in a community with an agricultural background, Hudson said. He said graduates have gone on to study veterinary science and viticulture or work as florists or landscapers, either short-term or long-term, after honing their skills at Fruita Monument. The school's next environment-focused career preparation program is already in the works: A wildland fire class for students who want to be firefighters or smoke jumpers.
Offerings at the school are determined by student interests, according to Fruita Monument Assistant Principal Todd McClaskey.
"We follow kids' passions. We had a student whose passion is composting, so she started the Composting Club last year," McClaskey said.
That student, Fruita Monument senior Courtlyn Carpenter, started the club after participating in a compost program at Fruita 8/9 School and composting at home. Club members routinely collect small composting buckets from classrooms and from a large bin in the cafeteria and dump them into a large compost bin behind the school to cut down on trash waste.
"I think it's gaining a focus on the environment," the 17-year-old Carpenter said, referring to the school's population. "I think our school as a whole does pretty well."
Mariah Hartle, an 18-year-old Fruita Monument senior who serves with Carpenter as co-president of the Recycling Club, said interest has grown this year in the club, which meets weekly at lunchtime to collect bins of aluminum, plastic and glass to give to a recycling business. Another group collects paper for recycling.
"You see people throw things away all the time. To have that one thing separated helps," Hartle said.
Recycling Club member Joe Englbrecht, 16, joined the club this year as a junior. He anticipates the club and school interest in environmental sustainability will continue to grow.
"I don't like to be wasteful," he said. "Why not recycle?"