September/October 2009 | back to school

Ideas Unlimited

Jon Derek Mitchell

Jon Derek Mitchell
Chattanooga High School
Chattanoga, Oklahoma
2008 Ideas Unlimited Winner
Region II

Creative Way to Teach Greenhouse Management is a Hit With Students

Jon Derek Mitchell, the ag teacher at Chattanooga High School in Chattanooga, Okla., developed a creative, hands-on method to teach greenhouse management that won the Region II Ideas Unlimited award last year.

“One of the biggest challenges agricultural educators face in these ever-changing times is developing new curriculum and experiential learning activities that not only captivate the learner’s interest but also integrate higher-order thinking skills,” said Mitchell.  His greenhouse management course meets that challenge head on.

During Mitchell’s Introduction to Horticulture course, students tour a local greenhouse; Dream Valley Farms, to experience a commercial operation first hand.  After this tour, students are divided into groups to plan, design and build a scale greenhouse using supplies that they purchase with a fifty-dollar budget.  “The students are required to build a frame with the covering of their choice, decide on a heating and cooling system, and arrange their benches so if their greenhouse was built to scale, it could hold 10,000 bedding plants,” said Mitchell.  When the model greenhouses are constructed, student groups present their ideas to the class.  The presentation is to cover the design, purpose and efficiency of their greenhouse. 

“This assignment has grown to become a student favorite at Chattanooga due to the diversity of instruction it offers,” said Mitchell.  “As an educator, I think the students appreciate the opportunity to learn by doing and the freedom to be creative.”

Each of the six 2008 Ideas Unlimited winners received a plaque and a travel stipend to attend the annual NAAE conference in Charlotte, NC.  Delmar Cengage Learning sponsors the Ideas Unlimited Award. For more information about the NAAE Ideas Unlimited award, and all NAAE awards programs, visit


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