A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices


Bailey Wells, Tristan Ginter and the West Carter Middle School Science Club

Olive Hill, Ky.

From a distance, the 10 by 14-foot structure behind West Carter Middle School in Carter County, Ky., looks like a futuristic laboratory. But closer examination reveals a deceptively simple greenhouse.

Inspired by the internet, funded by a grant from nonprofit youth organization Earth Force, and initiated by a student-led soda bottle collection, the greenhouse incorporates about 1,100 two-liter recycled plastic bottles, which are stacked in wood frames and held in place by wire. The base of the greenhouse is insulated with old tires that the school’s Science Club members filled with dirt.

Using their math skills, the students built a tilted roof to funnel rain into two black rainbarrels that provide water for the garden and a natural source of warmth through heat transfer.

Bailey Wells and Tristan Ginter, highly involved members of the Science Club, say that the student-grown lettuce and onions from the greenhouse result in tastier salads. Last year, the greenhouse provided salads for the school of 425 on five occasions. Wells points out that by growing food on school grounds, less energy is used in transportation. While the county high school’s greenhouse relies on conventional energy sources for electricity and water, the West Carter Middle School’s student-built greenhouse is self-sufficient and saves the school about $850 annually. “Other schools should learn [from this example] so we can save more money for the state,” says sixth-grader Tristan Ginter.

As she and other greenhouse builders head to the high school next year, the high school greenhouse’s electric generator is probably shaking in its boots. — By Molly Moore

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