Discovering a New Path at Lorain County JVS

When you hear the word landscape, mulch and plants most likely come to mind. At Lorain County JVS, it means so much more. Their Landscape and Greenhouse Management (LGM) program offers students an introduction into diverse career opportunities within the year-round green industry.

Beth Berthold, LGM Instructor, wants people to understand the diversity of her career tech program. “Our career field is very wide-ranging. Students can be park rangers, teachers, scientists, or go into sales. The options are plentiful,” said Berthold. “We are not only a landscape program, in the generic sense of the word, but our students learn landscape and floral design, golf course and sports turf management, as well as aquaponics and hydroponics systems.”

The aquaponics system, located in the on-campus greenhouse, is what caught the attention of senior student Sydney Collier. According to Collier, she never thought that she would go to the JVS, but during a tour her sophomore year, all of that changed.

“I saw the aquaponics system, and I thought it was so cool because it had fish in it and was a soilless system that was growing plants. That day I knew I had to be at the JVS and in this lab. I’m happy every day that I made that choice.”

Discovering a new passion that day, and becoming a student in the LGM program the following year, lead Collier down another path she didn’t see coming.

Berthold presented an assignment to Collier; come up with a hands-on project for elementary students that had something to do with recycled materials and a planter. Collier jumped at the chance, and got to work.

“After some research, I found a way to take a water bottle, cut it in half and flip it over to make a planter,” shared Collier. “But then I had to do a lot of problem solving, especially with different types of bottles, their flexibility, and just the way the bottles were shaped. I went through four or five different prototypes before I found a solution that worked. In the end, I was able to create a hand-held hydroponics system.”

When Berthold saw what Collier had accomplished, she knew this had the potential to be more. So Collier’s next step was to research science curriculums, to see if this was something she could take into local school districts to teach younger students.

“This is exactly what I want people to know about the JVS and my program,” said Berthold. “One little assignment has turned into a lesson plan for the next generation to learn about plants, farming and science.”

Jason Kaczay, Lorain County JVS Supervisor, shared that Collier had to look into the Ohio Learning Standard for Science to see what standards were applicable to the project she had created.

“Sydney looked at the Extended Standards provided by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to offer insight about the levels of complexity for the lesson,” said Kaczay. “This helped her gain an understanding of what was needed to create a lesson plan that tied to the current curriculum for the ODE.”

To date, Collier has taken her lesson plan to four local elementary schools and has taught local 2nd and 3rd graders about hydroponics. When asked what her favorite part in all of this has been, Collier is quick to answer. “I love watching the students’ faces light up when we walk in carrying plastic water bottles and some type of plant. They have no idea what they are going to learn, but they know it is going to be fun. Then after the lesson, I love the ah-ha moment, when it all sinks in and they get it.”

Collier plans on attending Ohio University this fall to study wildlife and conservation biology. It is her hope that more people discover all that Lorain County JVS has to offer. “I found my path here and I know that I will take with me all the lessons that I have learned.”