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Greenfield Community College

GCC gets a green new classroom

Greenhouse and Laboratory Technician Anthony Reiber, center, talks with Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura during an open house for the new energy efficient greenhouse at GCC. Recorder/Paul Franz

Greenhouse and Laboratory Technician Anthony Reiber, center, talks with Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura during an open house for the new energy efficient greenhouse at GCC. Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — With construction and internal design work now complete on Greenfield Community College’s 1,000-square-foot greenhouse, faculty plan to start focusing on how to best use the space as a classroom for both horticulture and sustainable energy.

A crowd of about two dozen gathered in the greenhouse Wednesday afternoon to celebrate what science faculty member Brian Adams called a birthday that’s been a decade in the making. The college began moving plants and small equipment into the space in late August.

“This is a multi-functional greenhouse,” said greenhouse manager Anthony Reiber. “It’s teaching the age-old skill of botany and horticulture of how to grow plants ... but also how to do it in a sustainable way, how to do it without consuming so many resources.”

He said a horticulture class next semester will use the space quite a bit, learning to grow seedlings and cut plants. He’d like to see the space grow vegetables in the early winter months that could then be moved out into the adjacent garden during the spring.

Reiber also plans to build up a collection of full-grown plants, shrubs and trees that will stay in the space year round. Botany classes, which have already used the space this semester to study plant hormones, will be able to go to the greenhouse to study tropical trees, for instance.

Adams used the greenhouse to begin his environmental science class this semester. His classes do an annual experiment that looks at how acidic materials and salt can affect plant growth.

“In the past we’ve done it under the lights in the classroom and while it’s worked, doing it in the greenhouse with natural lights ... really brought the experiment to a whole new level,” he said.

Since the greenhouse was built to be energy efficient, it also will serve as a lab space for renewable energy classes, said faculty member Michael Kocsmiersky.

“We have a lot of energy during the daytime, but our plants are going to need it 24/7,” said Kocsmiersky. “So how do we manipulate that temperature? That’s a design challenge.

“We can have the students say, ‘OK. What are some design ideas?’ Kind of work at if from an open-slate aspect,” he said.

Wednesday’s opening ceremony came over three years after officials broke ground at the site to the south of the main building. It was funded by a federal grant, earmarked by then-U.S. Rep. John Olver and a public donation by the Rice Family Foundation.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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