MOUNDRIDGE — For over 20 years now, students in Moundridge High School have been getting their hands dirty by providing plant life and knowledge to the high school and community.

Since 1997, interest in the Moundridge High School greenhouse has grown and is at its all-time high with students, said Alicia Torr, agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor at the high school.

"Students gain responsibility when caring for plants, they also learn different gardening practices," she said.

For more than 25 years, the high school greenhouse has been home to a plant not often found in Kansas — a banana tree.

The tree was planted in 1992 in the school’s first greenhouse, which attached to the mechanics shop. It was transplanted in 1997 when a bond was passed and the district built the greenhouse used today.

"The large banana tree has been in the greenhouse long before the new one was built. This is a huge tradition at Moundridge High School and all the students are very interested in seeing the bananas develop. This is very unique as banana trees are not typically grown in Kansas," Torr explained.

Other than traditional greenhouse plants and the famous banana tree, the greenhouse is also home to soybeans, which are grown to compete in the "Willie and the Beanstalk" competition through Kansas State University.

New this year, Torr's horticulture students are working on a wellness program where students are growing fruits and vegetables for the high school staff to enjoy.

Other than developing their green thumbs, students gain knowledge about nutrients needed for plant growth and other horticulture aspects the greenhouse offers.

"Students will have the opportunity to see life develop as we start with seeds and observe the different steps the plants go through to reach their flowering and/or fruiting stage," she explained.

The greenhouse is used by Torr's horticulture class and introduction to agriculture class.

"In the greenhouse, students are able to learn many aspects of plant life. There are opportunities for students to learn about horticulture, hydroponics, aquaponics, floriculture, floral design, propagation and soils," she said.

Torr wishes to continue the greenhouse and its traditions, however, donations are appreciated to keep the greenhouse up and running in its old age.

"With the greenhouse now being 20 years old, there are many repairs that need to be made in order to keep this learning opportunity for students," she said.

Donations can be sent to the Moundridge High School. For more information, visit the Moundridge FFA Facebook page or call Moundridge High School at 620-345-5500.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.