It's a long way between Le Grand and the South Pole.
Students in Monica Bianchi's ROP ornamental horticulture class at Le Grand High School got a chance to talk plant science issues with Joselyn Fenstermacher, the greenhouse supervisor at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, about 9,000 miles away.
Through a 40-minute Skype video chat, the Le Grand High juniors and seniors learned from Fenstermacher what it takes to run a remote greenhouse research station in one of the harshest environments on earth, student teacher Andrew West said.
"The chat was enticing for the students because it showed that they could use their developing skills in horticulture well outside their local community," West said.
Bianchi said since we are a global economy that imports and exports so much produce, disease and pest issues are of grave concern to California agriculture.
Le Grand students sent Fenstermacher nine scientific questions, focusing on how greenhouses operate and how diseases are controlled in a confined environment.
"Students learned that the greenhouse was controlled by excess heat from the station generators, which helped make the greenhouse too warm," West said. "This extra warmth in the greenhouse may have increased the chance for the disease botrytis, appearing like a gray fuzzy mold, and root and stem rot."
Bianchi said her 37 students study basic soil-borne parasites such as nematodes and they look at ag insect pests as the second economic expense to growers, along with invasive weeds.
Le Grand students were in select company, one of only three places in the United States to communicate with the station's horticulture center. The University of Arizona and NASA were the only other institutions to correspond at this level, West said.
"This is the first of many interactive science lessons that are being conducted at Le Grand High School as interest remains high to be a leader in the use of technology in education," West said. "Through the use of Apple iPads and networking, Le Grand students will have the tools to become 21st-century leaders on a global scale in agriculture and horticulture."
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.