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Marble Falls horticulture students growing knowledge as they prepare for plant sale

Marble Falls High School horticulture program

Marble Falls High School students Justin Blalock (left) and Genevieve Villela plant cilantro seeds in preparation for the upcoming plant sale. The school's horticulture program teaches students about plant science and offers them opportunities to learn greenhouse management. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

As Marble Falls High School horticulture student Genevieve Villela dropped cilantro seeds into the individual spaces in 6-pack containers, she explained why she placed two or more in each one.

“It’s a better chance we’ll get at least one to grow,” she said. “If more grow, we can separate them.”

On this day, Villela and her fellow horticulture students were engrossed in planting, propagating, and preparing for the school’s April 1 plant sale.

Marble Falls horticulture and agriculture science teacher Emily Blue’s students study plants and horticulture in depth and hands on.

“You know, a lot of what they learn in their other science classes, they get to apply out here,” Blue said about the greenhouse.

Marble Falls High School horticulture program
Marble Falls High School agriculture science and horticulture teacher Emily Blue (center) believes giving students such as Ashley Diaz-Romero (left) and Caitlyn Hulsey opportunities to explore their interests encourages deeper and better learning. Sometimes, it also means getting their hands dirty. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

You probably wouldn’t find this greenhouse in a typical backyard. Several classrooms could fit inside it. Plant science is learned in class; the greenhouse is the laboratory.

In preparation for the upcoming plant sale, students were delicately yet firmly separating clumps of monkey grass into individual plants. The smaller plants were then placed into 4-inch containers. By the time the sale rolls around, these plants will have set roots and grown some.

“They learn different ways to propagate plants,” Blue said about her students. “You can grow them from more than seeds. There’s cuttings. I teach them about cutting, which is simply cutting a small part from a plant, and they do it in the greenhouse.”

It’s learning by doing.

“I get to work with my hands out here,” student Justin Blalock said. “You get your hands dirty. I look forward to coming out here.”

Marble Falls High School horticulture program
Marble Falls High School student Daniela Meza separates monkey grass into smaller plants. It’s one plant propagation technique horticulture students learn and then apply. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Blue works to identify the strengths and interests of her students and then directs them toward areas in which they would best learn and grow. For some, it’s working with the plants. She has two students who enjoy fixing things, so they repair equipment.

Blue also teaches students about the business and management side of horticulture, including greenhouse management and customer service, which will be a helpful skill during the plant sale.

“They’re learning about all the plants so they can answer questions,” Blue said. “You know, if someone comes in here and wants a flowering plant that can grow in the shade … (the students) need to know which plants do that. And they can apply the things they learn about being good at customer service to so many other things or areas they may work.”

As Blue prepares students for their futures, she’s also thinking about the horticulture program’s future.

“This is an amazing facility,” she said about the greenhouse. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like this at a school this size. The district has been so supportive of the program. We hope we can keep growing the program.”

The Marble Falls High School horticulture plant sale is 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, at the greenhouse, which is located on the campus at 2101 Mustang Drive. Follow the signs to the greenhouse or check in at the office for directions.