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Lone Peak senior initiates greenhouse project

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If all goes to plan, this cabin beside U.S. Highway 191 at Lone Peak High School will be moved, and its foundation used for a greenhouse. PHOTO BY JACK REANEY

One teacher says this project has been 23 years in the making—Chloe Nogaret got the ball rolling in 12 months

By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER 

If a handful of Lone Peak High School students can carry the torch passed to them by graduating senior Chloe Nogaret, the Big Sky School District will soon have a long-awaited greenhouse.  

The greenhouse would grow herbs and vegetables in the fall and spring to be used by the cafeteria staff, Nogaret explained. In the summer—during school break and peak growing season—the greenhouse could become a community asset and responsibility.  

Nogaret recently tossed her blue cap and will study sustainable architecture at University of California Berkeley’s School of Environmental Design. Since June 2022, she has been pursuing permission, funding and support to build a greenhouse on school grounds, a concept which had fallen flat for 23 years without enough support or interest, according to teacher Jeremy Harder. 

By the end of her time as an LPHS student, Nogaret is confident that the project has enough support to reach completion in the next couple years.  

But that won’t be possible without a pair of green-thumbed incoming seniors, Dylan Klein and Ella Meredith. When they heard about Nogaret’s initiative, they listened to her ideas and agreed to take over next year.  

“I don’t want the next students to be so overwhelmed that they don’t carry it through, I’d like them to be able to [finish] it out,” Nogaret told EBS. She’s confident her hard work will result in a greenhouse, eventually.  

Klein and Meredith described their plan via email. They will lean on the school district’s new science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) laboratory to finalize designs and construct the greenhouse. The lab is expected to open in fall 2023. 

“For next year we plan to have the structure built and finished so that the project can then be handed off to the next year’s juniors. Once the juniors take over they can continue and build off of our ideas. Hopefully, to build the structure next year we will be able to use the new [STEAM] wing to create a structurally sound design that will last through the years for many students to enjoy,” the pair wrote. 

Nogaret first imagined the project as self-sufficient—no plumbing or electricity—and began using the architecture software SketchUp to show how it could be built from scratch. However, she found the cost of materials would be too high, and as she passes the project to Klein and Meredith, she’s been open to the idea of connecting to plumbing and electric lines to make the project more feasible. 

“So, at the beginning, sadly it won’t be a sustainable greenhouse like the original plans. However, we hope that when future students take it on, they can help develop it into a sustainable greenhouse as the years continue,” Nogaret said.  

Talk with Nogaret, and it’s clear how much she prioritizes sustainability. From her early years living in Denmark, she remembers her brother’s kindergarten class building a greenhouse entirely of recycled plastic bottles. During early high school in Houston, Texas—her family moved to Big Sky in 2021—her class created a hydroponic garden. She handled the plumbing and was inspired by the project’s student leadership.  

Nogaret doesn’t believe she has a high bar for sustainability, but believes everyone should be working toward an ambitious goal and trying to improve.   

Chloe Nogaret will attend University of California Berkeley to study sustainable architecture. COURTESY OF LPHS

“I think it’s just doing whatever you can to help the environment,” she explained. “I don’t think it’s a certain bar, because some people might not be able to have solar energy on their house or cannot afford [other renewable energy sources]… If I can make it as sustainable as possible, I’d like to.” 

She also credits her parents for setting an environmentally conscious example.  

In her junior year at Lone Peak, she saw a greenhouse during a school trip to the Rocky Boy’s reservation in north-central Montana. She didn’t realize a greenhouse would be possible in Montana’s harsh climate, she said. Months later, as she explored the possibility of a school greenhouse, she connected with Mr. Harder who’d been involved with past greenhouse efforts. 

“She wanted to do it as a big project, and I said, ‘go for it,’” Harder said. However, he had seen similar attempts fail in the past, and wasn’t sure Nogaret could pull it off.  

“She was in her senior year—she’s trying to complete high school, get into a university. And then to [add] this,” Harder recalled. However, he soon realized that the greenhouse was a passion project for Nogaret—it helped create balance with the demands of finishing high school, which many students find through extracurricular activities and sports.  

“She really did this independently, which is commendable,” said Harder, who added that all he provided was “cheerleading and signing some forms.” 

“Whatever she’s done, she’s done it top notch,” he added. “Whether it’s securing funds, or getting permission, or land use.” 

Nogaret said the biggest challenge was gaining support from people who lacked faith after others’ failed attempts to build a greenhouse.  

“I just feel like a lot of people automatically think it won’t work out, and they’re apprehensive on supporting,” she said. “Finding grants and donations has been difficult.” 

However, she said the Moonlight Community Foundation has provided significant funding, and Lizzie Peyton from Big Sky Sustainability Network Organization (SNO) has been a resource for advice and a little funding.  

“We’re still talking with other people to hopefully increase the budget because it’s still not where I’d like it to be,” Nogaret said. 

The greenhouse will be built on the existing foundation of the old cabin located on school grounds—Harder said the greenhouse project coincided with an existing effort to bring that cabin to a more historically accurate location, on Crail Ranch.  

It will also be constructed using leftover materials from school construction projects, some of which will need to be cut and measured by students.  

“They have the windowpanes we need, and they have a lot of it that’s going to be thrown away if we don’t use it,” Nogaret said. She added that School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman was eager to put those excess materials to good use.  

Klein and Meredith wrote that the greenhouse will be student-run and should serve as an excellent resource for students interested in biology, agriculture and STEM careers. It will also bring students together to maintain the greenhouse as a team.  

“We are both excited about the project and are looking forward to jumping into it next year,” they concluded.  

“I know the current junior group is really motivated, and they’re really good students so I’m not worried about that,” Harder said. “And the younger group is equally motivated.” 

Students as young as current freshmen have expressed interest.  

“Hopefully there are enough people that it will continue, and there will always be some sort of facilitator especially as the grades get bigger,” Nogaret said. “And I just hope it amounts to something.” 

Harder added that these students are “intrinsically motivated”—they’re not doing this to get a grade. 

“It will be cool to see them build resilience and learn how to communicate differently, and persevere through a long-term project,” he said. “This allows them to see a lengthy process over months, years. That might be the biggest lesson learned.” 

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