Nothing geeky about a greenhouse

Strawberries grow at Hollyhill Hummingbird Sustainable Farm in Cupertino, California, December 5, 2012. (Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)
Strawberries grow at Hollyhill Hummingbird Sustainable Farm in Cupertino, California, December 5, 2012. (Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

Using a greenhouse as a physics lab project might not be traditional, but this idea was what won Ralph Tadday the Green Star Award in January 2013.
Tadday, physics and engineering professor at Central Oregon Community College, first had the idea for using the Chandler Building greenhouse as part of his physics lab during the summer of 2012.
Molly Svendsen
The Broadside
“There is always the danger in the science department of students saying, ‘I will never do that again,’” Tadday said. “There is no geekiness in a greenhouse and so I thought that this could be a really hands on project that would grab students and make them excited about learning.”
Over Fall 2012, Tadday directed students in his Physics 213 class in developing proposals and ideas to improve sustainability at the Chandler Building greenhouse.
“I was overall really pleased, it did overwhelm me a little bit, after a few weeks seeing how much work it is to put a project with 10 to 12 groups together,” Tadday said.
Tadday saw this project as a way to get students interested in physics in a practical way.
“When we think of lab work, we think of what would be useful and applicable for students,” Tadday said. “Sustainability is something many people are connected with. With this greenhouse we can have a showcase of sustainability projects, something that continues on.”
Tadday is one of 10 individuals and groups that have received the Green Star Award since the sustainability committee started this program.
Kevin Grove, physics and engineering professor at COCC, is chair of the sustainability committee that decides the recipients of the Green Star Award.
“Ralph [Tadday] really stood out by implementing sustainable practices and involving this into his curriculum,” Grove said. “Taking physics into the learning garden was an excellent demonstration of sustainability practices.”
Grove believes the Green Star Award will make an impact on sustainability practices and will change COCC for the better.
“I hope it motivates people to step up and take action,” Grove said. “Maybe it will even motivate people to practice sustainability and one day win a Green Star Award.”
For Tadday, receiving this award only reaffirms his teaching style and enthusiasm for helping students learn.
“I didn’t even know [Green Star Award’s] existed, it doesn’t change what am doing, what drives me is finding rhyme and reason for students to learn,” Tadday said. “It is nice that these incentives are there, because maybe it can change the future as far as sustainability.”
(Contact: msvendsen@cocc.edu)

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