A typical day, for students at TGP, starts at 9:00 a.m. after being transported to the Linda Nolen Learning Center from their home school. They immediately put on their logoed t-shirt, grab their name tag and gardening gloves, if needed, and clock in. Once clocked in, they check the daily schedule to find out if the will be working in the cottage or greenhouse. In the morning they work in one area and in the afternoon the other.
In the cottage, with their teacher, they hone in and work on daily living and social skills. First, they’ll make the bed and start the laundry. The laundry consists of the t-shirts worn by the students the previous day, and maybe a few dishcloths and dish towels from the kitchen. After the t-shirts are dried, they are sorted, folded and placed in each student’s work box. On any given day, they might plan a menu, make a grocery list or deep clean the cottage. At times, they bake cookies or cook lunch for the group.
On those days they cook, they eat in the cottage instead of going to the cafeteria. And, of course, after lunch, cleaning the kitchen is always done. Other days, after chores, they may play games, go for a walk or watch a movie.
Occupational skills, job training and instilling a strong work ethic are the main focus of the greenhouse program. Embedded components, such as communication, teamwork, punctuality, following directions, working independently, time management, self-discipline and work place etiquette, are taught as the students learn different aspects of the horticulture industry. As they do activities in grounds maintenance, landscaping, wholesale plant production, and working in a retail garden center they gain valuable knowledge and experience they will carry though out their lives.
At the beginning of each year they learn to identify basic garden tools and the safe and proper ways to use them. Weather permitting, the students work around the grounds of Linda Nolen using these tools as they perform landscape maintenance and landscaping tasks. If the weather is not conducive to working outside, the students work inside making items that can be sold at TGP’s school- based business. For example, this past spring the ground beyond the greenhouse was tilled and a row of okra was planted and grown to make Christmas Okra Angels as a fund raiser during the Christmas season.
In the greenhouse, students are taught how to transplant plugs into container gardens, hanging baskets and flats. They learn how to take care of the plants in preparation for the seasonal plant sales. Two rounds of crops are to be grown each year. Fall crops include pansies, violas, flowering cabbage/kale,and herbs. And, for spring sales, annuals, perennials, grasses and herbs are grown. In preparation and conducting these biannual sales, the students are exposed to marketing, sales, and customer relations, important aspects of a retail garden center.