Moms and dads, don’t be surprised if your son or daughter comes home from preschool with a green thumb this fall.
Rain or shine, snow or drought, students at the Mini University (Mini U) child care center at Wright State University will soon be heading to class in a state-of-the-art geodesic greenhouse—a self-sustaining, dome-shaped structure that’s been built next to the school.
One of many important upgrades to Mini U over the summer, the construction of the geo-dome has students, staff and parents eager for classes to begin in the greenhouse. Mini U also renovated its kitchen, added an additional infant classroom and replaced all flooring and carpets in the center.
“It’s quite amazing,” said Kim Kramer, director of Mini University at Wright State. “It gives the children a year-round benefit by exposing them to lessons about planting fruits and vegetables, the growing life cycle, sustainability technologies and of course a great outdoor classroom.”
The geo-dome is 33 feet in diameter, stands over 14 feet tall and occupies 850 square feet of real estate in the Mini U backyard. Powered by three solar panels, its fans, vents and four-foot-deep water tank independently irrigate and ventilate the chamber, creating an ideal climate for growing plants, flowers, vegetables and fruits in the many raised beds within its walls.
Kramer said one staff member will be in charge of the greenhouse and will teach classes there on a weekly basis, incorporating science experiments, life-cycle lessons and plenty of digging in the dirt. Partnerships with university departments in biology, earth sciences and sustainability are also being pursued.
“We’ve always been a strong supporter of exposing children to every opportunity possible, and we know that children learn best through hands-on, developmentally appropriate activities,” said Kramer.
Mini U students have long been involved in green-thumb activities, but Kramer believes the geo-dome will take their learning to the next level and provide an experience that few preschool students get to have.
“I am proud of the high quality care we provide for children, and we are confident they will benefit from using this greenhouse.” Kramer said. “It is certainly a unique addition to Wright State University and our surrounding communities, and it is something you will not find at other child care centers.”
With so many Wright State faculty, staff and students using the Wright State Mini U for their child care, Kramer said the volunteer support they received in construction of the geo-dome was overwhelming. Many Wright State engineering, service-learning and early childhood development students also pitched in to make it happen.
“I think for the parents and students that volunteered, it definitely gave a sense of buy-in and ownership,” said Kramer. “When I see the look on people’s faces when they see the geo-dome, you can tell they’re proud they helped build that, and that’s what our community is all about.”
A ribbon cutting for the formal opening of the geo-dome will be on Thursday, September 13, at 10:30 a.m. at Mini U. The event is open to the public.