Tucked away in the back of Amphitheater High School in Tucson, Arizona, is one of the school’s most unique learning centers—the school’s greenhouse. Students learn a mix of math, biology, and science while working in the conservatory. Throughout the day, you’ll see them shuffling in and out of this outdoor classroom with tools, notes, and plants in hand. It doesn’t end there; students also learn personal responsibility, sustainability, and teamwork—all skills that will help them succeed in college and beyond.
What first started as a school project in 2017, where students restored the once-abandoned greenhouse, evolved to the Ecology/Greenhouse Club at Amphi. The club offers students an opportunity to explore the STEM field and learn life skills along the way.
The club consists of students passionate about growing and taking care of plants, herbs, and vegetables. Even during the pandemic, students continued their work—arranging classes outside and taking proper precautions. Students in the club learn the process of growing plants, from composting all the way to harvesting.
To support the work of these students, GEAR UP helped arrange for new gardening beds last year, and the students are making the most of it. The club functions year-round and is led by Amphi English Teacher, Ms. Engel.
“Growing up, I would garden all the time, and when I came here, I saw how much the students enjoyed it, and I saw an opportunity,” Ms. Engel said.
Ms. Engel’s classroom is stocked with a variety of plants in unique pots decorated by students. Members of the club see this as a community project and share their knowledge and achievements with others. Students donate food, volunteer at community gardens, and teach others how to start their own gardens.
“We harvest our plants and make salads for the teachers. They love it, and so do we,” club member Habiba Ilyassa said.
The students take great pride in their work. Upon arrival at the greenhouse, students were thrilled to see a new batch of strawberries sprouting. They recounted all of the hard work it took to create those fresh berries.
“When I first got here, I didn’t know anything about plants,” Senior Javoz Thomas said. “I’ve learned a lot, and now I can help with everything around here.”
Anosha Mukhtarkhail is a senior and president of the Ecology/Green House Club and joined thanks to her brother, who was also once president of the club.
“I used to see my brother come home with all of these fruits and veggies, and he’d talk about all the things they did to make it, and I thought it was a great thing to be a part of,” Anosha said.
The club is always looking to give back and is kind to everyone. During my visit to the school, the club offered me a bag of my very own veggies, to which I replied, “I don’t want to take away from you guys.” A student quickly replied, “You are not taking; we are giving.”
Giving is what this club does, and GEAR UP is proud to support a group of students who look out for others and enrich their communities all while doing work they love.
“I think all schools should have a club like this; it is great way to help build a community,” club member Habiba Ilyassa said.
For more information on the ecology club at Amphitheater High School, contact Ms. Engel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anosha Mukhtarkhail works with GEAR UP Coach Ms. Pye and plans to attend Pima Community College and then transfer to Arizona State University to study to be a pilot.
Habiba Ilyassa visits the GEAR UP office when she has questions regarding college. She plans to attend Pima and transfer to the University of Arizona to study Medical Assisting.
Javoz Thomas is a senior and is still considering his options after graduation. He is thinking about going to college and looking into what to study.