(NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ) – Students in the North Plainfield School District’s Pathways Program opened the greenhouse at the Harrison School on May 6 for a special Mother’s Day plant sale. During the sale, students in the career-readiness program assisted customers, conducted sales transactions and answered questions about the wide variety of plants and vegetables they began growing back in September.

“Events such as the plant sale enable students to utilize skills from across the curriculum, including but not limited to, mathematics, science, biology, business and communication skills,” said Pathways teacher John Burke.

Over the past 10 months, Pathways students have worked alongside Joe Gyurian, a horticulturalist with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Somerset County, to plant and care for the greenhouse items. Products available for purchase in the greenhouse last Friday ranged in price from $1 to $4 and included basil, Bibb lettuce, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, parsley, summer squash, and tomatoes (cherry, patio, big beef and Roma), as well as zinnias, marigolds, and pansies.

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“We have over 150 individual plants for sale today,” Burke said. “What you see here is a culmination of our students’ efforts over the course of the school year.”

Pathways, which is part of the North Plainfield School District’s career and technical education program for select 9th through 12th graders, integrates core curriculum content standards with career orientation training and teaches students across the curriculum. Through the greenhouse, science skills are used to determine a plant’s life cycle; math skills are applied to track the temperature and height of the plants; and business skills are used to organize and manage two successful plant sales.

“The overall goal of the program is for students to acquire 21st century skills by focusing on a variety of career tracts,” said Burke.

Pathways students told TAPinto that working in the greenhouse has provided them with business skills such as how to work a cash register and handle money and interact with customers.

“It is a fun and different way to learn different things we are going to need in the future,” said a Pathways’ 10th grader. “It’s taught me how to conduct a business, talk to people, work with money and be professional.”

A Pathways senior said the greenhouse has provided her with knowledge about plants she didn't have before. “I wasn't a plant person, but I like it much more now. I’ve learned about different vegetables and plants,” she said.

Last year, over $750 was raised at two Pathway’s plant sales with the money going to facilitate field trips and community-based instruction experiences to further develop students’ skills. Additionally, items grown in the greenhouse will also benefit the local community.

“The students have set aside several tomato, pepper, lettuce and basil plants to donate to the Food Bank Network of Somerset County. Through this process of serve learning, students realize that their efforts not only benefit themselves but their community as well.”

In addition to working with Gyurian in the greenhouse throughout the year, Pathways students provide support services to the school and community by completing requests for lamination, bookbinding, and poster design and printing. The students also volunteer their time to the North Plainfield Food Pantry and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Joseph’s Church.

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