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home : education : schools April 30, 2016

2/25/2014 1:18:00 PM
Volunteers launch greenhouse recovery
The “Out of the Debris Greenhouse Recovery Group” inspecting the remains of the Sisters Middle School greenhouse.  photo by Jim Anderson
+ click to enlarge
The “Out of the Debris Greenhouse Recovery Group” inspecting the remains of the Sisters Middle School greenhouse. photo by Jim Anderson

By Jim Anderson

What was crushed by snow will rise again - and it may be much grander in scope and scale.

Audrey Tehan, Leland Bliss, Carol Packard, David Hiller, Mark Thompson, Jim Golden and Bob Collins visited the crushed remains of what was once the Sisters Middle School (SMS) greenhouse on Tuesday, February 18.

In its glory days - before the Big Snow of 2014 - the greenhouse was the site of great dreams to bring homegrown food to the students of the Sisters schools through the Farm-To-Table program.

After inspecting the ruins and determining what parts could be salvaged (such as Dave Hiller's $75 hinges that operated the dutch door at the entrance, and the sturdy raised beds fabricated by Sisters High School students), the group got out of the rain and took up the meeting in the SMS library.

The deliberations started from simply replacing the greenhouse; then other ideas began to flow. Mark Thompson had two photos with him of a timber-frame-and-glass replacement.

In the discussion that followed, it was agreed by most everyone that a structure of that magnitude would not fit into the present parcel as a replacement, which brought on consideration of establishing a new, larger facility with a north/south placement, instead of the original east/west orientation.

David Hiller, one of the original planners and builders of the greenhouse, began to expand upon the replacement structure and role. With the help of the rest of the group he explored the new building as part greenhouse, part education center, part scientific laboratory.

Superintendent Jim Golden wanted to see the replacement plan go even further. He saw the new building as a "place of beauty," with a kitchen where the food grown in the greenhouse part of what was becoming a community building could be cooked and gobbled up on the spot.

Bob Collins took the replacement concept closer to a goal with his idea of it becoming a multifaceted structure acting as a center for community agriculture and environmental projects - even to removable glass roof panels so a telescope could be set up for community star-gazing parties

He even gave it a name: Phoenix Educational Center.

Cal Allen, one of the founders of the Sisters Science Club, could see the new structure as a laboratory for solar power research. That reminded Hiller to discuss a large set of solar panels, all rebuilt and ready to be installed in whatever the group decides to build.

The more the group tossed the old greenhouse replacement among them, the more it became an educational, Sisters community-based facility where everything from star-gazing to classrooms in the sciences, to growing tomatoes for pizzas were envisioned.

Audrey Tehan envisioned the new facility to be similar to a magnificent one built by the Mt. Hood School District.

By day's end, the old greenhouse was a mere memory, and the Phoenix Educational Center (PEC) began to rise from the debris.

Then Mark Thompson brought it all to a head: "I propose a community bonfire (hot chocolate, cookies etc.), using the burnable material from the collapsed greenhouse, and could take place at the current greenhouse site. Afterwards, the ashes could be collected for use in a first experiment in the PEC: what do burn pile ashes consist of? Are they good for growing things?"

Mark will be contacting local businesses in Sisters with a brief explanation and vision for the PEC, bringing with him the group's wish-list.

Public input is invited; comments and suggestions can be sent to Jim Golden at

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