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Real World, Real Skills at Niagara College


May 11, 2011
By Dave Harrison

May 13, 2011, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. — The applied research
components in the Greenhouse, Horticulture and Landscape Technician
programs of Niagara College were showcased during the school’s Real
World, Real Skills open house.

May 13, 2011, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. — The applied research components in the Greenhouse, Horticulture and Landscape Technician programs of Niagara College were showcased during the school’s Real World, Real Skills open house.

Included were student posters, research displays and presentations throughout the day. An awards ceremony recognized outstanding student and faculty achievements.

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Applied research work begins the first semester, enabling students to become familiar with experimental design, data collection, product evaluation and critical thinking skills, explains Olga Piedrahita, co-ordinator of the Greenhouse Program and Horticulture Research at Niagara College.
Many of the projects help industry partners solve small problems or in some cases obtain proof of principle to continue the research.

Other in-class projects are designed to help industry partners commercialize a new product. Students in the Soils Science class, for example, evaluated and compared commercial mixes to a new mix by a substrate company that was a partner in the study.

The class grew three different ornamental crops in the various media. As they learned the physical principles of soils, they evaluated the bulk densities and other physical properties of the soils in the experiment. When they moved on to learn about the chemical characteristics of the soils, they collected data regularly on pH and EC changes. Soil testing was done by a commercial lab, and the students learned how to interpret this data. Further data will be collected on plant health and other parameters.

“This project illustrates how you have a real world connection between the theory and the commercial application,” says Piedrahita. “The intention is to match the curriculum with the projects so that students see the connection between the course work and industry.”

Including all divisions in the college, there are currently over 1,000
students involved in one way or another in applied research.

Also featured was the annual greenhouse open house and plant sale,
attracting hundreds of visitors eager to stock up on a wide variety of
potted plants.

4062_judges_kate_berger_albert_grimm_and_andrew_damm_npc_student_danielle_chevrette_second_year_grhse_tech
Urban Gardening – Balcony Food Production
project judges Kate Berger (an
urban agriculture specialist), Albert Grimm (head grower at Jeffery’s
Greenhouses in St. Catharines), and Andrew Damm (Dramm Canada, the
competition sponsor) listen while student Danielle Chevrette, a
second-year greenhouse technician student, explains her team’s
design. Team projects were prominently displayed during the open house.

4062_winning_team
Urban Gardening – Balcony Food Production project: the overall winner for its simplicity and technical elements was the
vertical production of herbs by Matt Sikkema and Matt Tigchelaar.

4062_jim_thompson_with_hydrangea
Jim Thomson, manager, Campus Development, Greenhouse and Nursery, helped welcome gardeners to the school's annual plant sale.


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