Trade students build greenhouse

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Nashua High School South Principal Keith Richard and Cathy Lui, the school’s special education department secretary, select for purchase some plants nurtured from seed at the school’s newly built greenhouse, a project initiated by Heather Dubois, the school’s Family & Consumer Sciences teacher, who credited its completion to a joint effort by students and faculty of three programs that are a part of the school’s 15-program Nashua Technology Center.

NASHUA – Fruits, flowers and veggies stretched toward green maturity in a specialized environment.

The seedlings owed their vigor to loving care and a newly built greenhouse, a project accomplished with the help of students from the Nashua Technology Center, a haven for hands-on learning ensconced within Nashua High School South on Riverside Street.

The NTC project evolved from an idea hatched by Heather Dubois, instructor for the school’s Family & Consumer Sciences program, a curriculum known in years past as home economics – or “home ec.” The FACS program excited dozens of participants.

“There were around 60 kids involved in the greenhouse project,” Dubois said. “We’re hope to have a garden club called the ‘Panther Garden Club’ in the fall that can help this garden project grow.”

Students and teachers from three NTC programs assisted in building the greenhouse atop a spacious lawn alongside the school, which boasts “Purple Panthers” as the moniker for its sports teams. The volunteers’ craftsmanship birthed a structure measuring 12-feet-wide by 24-feet-long by 12-feet-tall.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON A display of some of the plants grown from seed at the newly built greenhouse at Nashua High School South that was constructed by students and faculty of three trade programs within the Nashua Technology Center there include volunteer gardeners, from left, Heather Dubois, initiator of the greenhouse project and the instructor of the school’s Family & Consumer Sciences program; Alan Verley, the teacher of the NTC’s Construction Technology program, one of three trade programs whose members assisted in the greenhouse project; Fernanda Dela Lima, a junior and student of the FACS program; and Gemma Djossou, a sophomore whose participation in the FACS program evolved into a successful gardening project.

The effort was carried out via the Construction Technology program, the Electrical Technology program and the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning program, more commonly known as “HVAC.”

The NTC programs are a part of a family of 15 vocational-technical courses offered to students from regional high schools. The students go to South, or to Nashua High School North, for their choice of trade classes, offerings ranging from cosmetology to culinary arts to automotive, plus many more that can lead to immediate employment after graduation, or to a firm grasp on college studies.

The new greenhouse quickly became home to dozens of potted annuals including zinnias, portulaca and sunflowers, along with potted cukes, squash and tomatoes – the hottest sellers at the hot house. Perennials including oregano, thyme, iris and daylilies were available.

Keith Richard, the principal at Nashua South for six years, said the effort was a demonstration of interdisciplinary teamwork that created a product that will “stand up for a long time.”

“This is what school is about,” Richard said. “You find opportunities to spark the interest of our kids.”

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Nashua High School South math teachers, from left, Erin Pinault, Andrea Valiante and Kjell Nordstrom, admire the “Panther Garden” greenhouse recently erected alongside the high school under the supervision of Heather Dubois, originator of the greenhouse project and the teacher of the school’s Family & Consumer Sciences program, whose idea was brought to reality by students and faculty of the Nashua Technology Center, an enclave within Nashua South that offers 15 vocational-technical programs whose students are prepared for immediate employment after graduation or for subsequent studies.

A trio of faculty members was credited by Dubois for engaging their students in the construction, lighting and ventilation of the structure, a bright white building sporting 24 windows, an electric fan for air circulation and a smooth entryway for those with disabilities. Thanked for their help were supporters Alan Verley, a teacher for 10 years of the building construction technology class; Mike Michaud, who teaches electrical technology classes; and Rob Clauss, instructor of the HVAC program.

The project was launched last year when the components of the greenhouse were brought together indoors before the arrival of winter. The makings were moved to the current location this spring. Verley said the enterprise entailed the precise cutting of boards for framing, the crafting all the countertops out of laminate, painting, window insertions, and many other tasks.

“It was a lot of work and a learning experience for all the students,” Verley said. “A lot of things are hands-on here.”

The school year drew to a close as plants were offered for sale to faculty and students. A multitude found new homes in gardens and yards throughout the community. Students who were involved in the project visited the greenhouse often during the school year to water the sprouts and otherwise nurture them.

Teacher Cathy Lui, special education department secretary, said it was “great to see it all come to fruition.” She bought iris and portulaca. Student Fernanda Dela Lima, a junior, said it was “so amazing” to see tiny seedlings thrive. Meanwhile, Gemma Djossou, a sophomore from Nashua, monitored closely the florals she planted. She said she would look at one and think, “That’s my flower.”

Community assistance is welcome to further the success of the student venture. Volunteers will be entrusted with watering and fertilizing duties, along with plant sales.

Already, Verley has commended Belletetes Inc., a Nashua building supplies company whose contributions of materials went far toward completing the greenhouse. Other local businesses are invited to participate. Inquiries are welcomed by Dubois at

Many tours rewarded the curious. Dubois, the project’s founder, looked over the shelves of potted plants, garden gloves and watering cans that nestled near seed trays waiting for their tiny miracles to erupt through the soil. Her pride in the shared effort of so many students, teachers and administrators was echoed by Perla Gudino, 15, a freshman from Nashua.

“I learned a lot about plants and how to help them grow,” Gudino said. “I loved sharing the experience with everyone.”