If you have noticed some of the floral arrangements that beautify the City of Winkler, particularly the large ones on Highway 32, you've seen some of the handiwork of the students in the high school Horticulture and Landscaping Program.
Located at GVCT TEC, the Horticulture and Landscaping Program offers students two levels of study and is one of the regional programs offered in the Red River Technical Vocational Area (RRTVA). Kathy Byrka, the Horticulture and Landscaping instructor, says she loves teaching horticulture at GVC TEC. "Once they're in the program, the students always come back," says Byrka. Utilizing a state-of-the-art greenhouse on site, the Horticulture program exemplifies the potential of school-community partnerships, as it combines a unique course of study with meaningful service opportunities in the community.
Byrka says that a partnership with the Winkler Horticulture Society began in spring with an offer to assist with the spring clean up. That then led to the students planting the 2 large plots on Hwy 32--the "WINKLER" word and the plot at the corner of Hwy 32 & Pembina that reads "FAITH." In fall, the horticulture students continued their community work by pulling plants at 8 flowers plots, 2 cemeteries, Parkview Gardens, and the large patch in front of the Community Gardens beside D.J.'s restaurant. Carol Neufeld, writing on behalf of the Winkler Horticulture Society, thanked the division for the horticulture program and the chance to partner with the students and staff in the program. "We love their energy and enthusiasm and the hard work they do," writes Neufeld. In turn, Kathy Byrka says "they [Winkler Horticulture] come and support our Christmas plant and centrepiece sale, and it's a good relationship."
The students in Horticulture spend about half of their time in class, and the other half of the time working in the greenhouse. The day is typically flexible, with students moving in a practical manner between the classroom and the greenhouse. Amy Bergen, a grade 11 NPC student in the program, says she "loves the hands-on part of the program." "I used to struggle in school," says Bergen, "but I'm happy to be in school now." Further to enjoying school again and eagerly attending the Horticulture program, Bergen says that her marks in her other core subjects, particularly English, have gone up as well. Students successfully completing the program will have skillset that can lead them into related career opportunities, such as Greenhouse or Landscape Technician, Florist, Arborist (Tree Specialist), Garden Centre and Retail Nursery, Forestry and Parks Technician, Environmentalist, Golf Course Workers, to name a few.
The Horticulture class held their annual Christmas Sale in the GVC TEC Greenhouse on Wednesday, December 9 and Thursday, December 10 from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm. The sale was open to the general public, and the class featured poinsettia plants, Christmas Centerpieces, and outdoor arrangements. Proceeds of this year's sale will go towards the Winkler Food Cupboard.
See also some photos of the horticulture program below: