Get Schooled: Mt. Vernon Students Use CD Cases for Greenhouse is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

Get Schooled IanMt. Vernon Elementary School students are using their science know-how to leave a lasting legacy at their school.

Mt. Vernon’s STEAM Club, which encourages students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, spent much of the last year designing and building a greenhouse made of CD jewel boxes for one of the school’s gardens.

Tracey Buckley, a Mt. Vernon teacher who sponsors the club, said the project began as a student-driven idea. Buckley said the 16 club members typically competed to construct small wind turbines throughout the year, but she wanted them to complete a final project this year.

She found a project online other teachers had assigned — having students design and construct small greenhouses out of CD cases. Buckley decided to have her students do the same.

“I had seen online some small-scale ones,” Buckley said. “Originally it was going to be an individual project for each student to complete.”

That original plan changed when Buckley’s students came to her and said they wanted to leave a legacy at Mt. Vernon. Buckley saw an opportunity. Instead of an individual project, the club would work together on one greenhouse and donate it to Mt. Vernon.

The students immediately bought into the idea.

“Each student had a title, like chief engineer [or] worker,” Buckley said.

Buckley put out a call to Mt. Vernon parents to collect enough cases to complete the project. When the drive came up short, she bought the remaining cases to use.

The next step was to design the greenhouse. The students had to use their STEM skills to complete individual designs, and the then class would vote on which they thought was the best and most feasible design. At first, ambition got the best of them.

“They really wanted to build a big one,” she said.

The STEAM Club spent much of the last year constructing their short-lived greenhouse. (Courtesy YCSD)
The STEAM Club spent much of the last year constructing their short-lived greenhouse. (Courtesy YCSD)

After talking it out with her students, Buckley said the students settled on a smaller, more traditional design. The cases made up four walls, while cases opened to an angle formed the roof. Each case was hot glued into place.

Construction was not without difficulty. Spaces between cases had to be filled by epoxy, and corners and bases had to be strengthened by dowel rods and rules.

Portions of the design had to be reworked as the work went on, and minor disagreements flared over the aesthetic design of the greenhouse.

After months of work, the greenhouse was ready to be placed in one of Mt. Vernon’s gardens. In May, it took up residence in the garden. A nearby sign included the names of each of the STEAM Club students.

But it wasn’t long before disaster struck. A spring rainstorm proved too much for the greenhouse, and after less than a month in the garden, the structure collapsed.

“It held wonderfully, until it fell down,” Buckley said.

While the rain destroyed the greenhouse, it did not crush the spirits of the STEAM Club.

The students, Buckley said, want to come back next year to help a new group of students make a stronger greenhouse. Part of that may include creating a manual of what to do and what not to do in greenhouse construction.

“They want to come here and try again,” Buckley said.