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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Brighton teacher introduces plants to help clean air during construction

Jun 11, 2020 11:37AM ● By Julie Slama

Brighton CTE and financial literacy teacher Camille Haskan and social studies teacher Steven Guerrero and other faculty and staff created pots to hold snake plants in an effort to cleanse the air at the school during construction. (Pace Gardner/Brighton High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Similar to that of what he expects of his students, Brighton High English teacher Pace Gardner identified a problem and came up with a solution, which is expected to improve the environment for the school’s students, staff and faculty.

“The air quality is gross, bad here with all the construction,” he said. “Plus, with the way this school was built 50 years ago, there aren’t windows so we can’t see the visual beauty.”

After identifying those concerns, Gardner learned that snake plants are known for their air-cleaning abilities.

“A NASA study said that snake plants are considered better than most other indoor plants as they can absorb excessive amounts of carbon monoxide,” he said. “They are one of the easiest ways to clean air.”

Gardner, who is a member of Canyons School District’s living leader program, applied for a $300 grant from the school district to not only purchase the 10-inch plants, but also to buy 50 pounds of clay and some glaze.

“I thought it would be a good social, team-building aspect if we were able to make our own pots for the plants,” he said. “This should be a nice, simple, passive sort of way of getting healthier air and getting to know our colleagues better.”

He reached out to Brighton art teacher Laura Malan and got her on board, Then, he created a pottery sign-up for a non-student day, on Feb. 28, which 35 staff and faculty immediately jumped on board.

“I didn’t expect that kind of immediate response, so the principal found more money so others could participate. I think I cleaned out all the plants on the east side of the valley,” Gardner said.

Principal Tom Sherwood, who commends the contractors in their efforts to reduce dust by putting in barriers separating construction from classroom sites, said that when the response to make pinch pots was greater than expected, he was happy to find a way to support the additional expenses.

“We are all about making healthy habits,” he said. “Last year, Pace was involved in the healthy heart challenge and involved us into improving our exercise and diet. This year, he’s focusing on air cleansing and even mindfulness and managing stress, as he’s leading us in new skills in making pots as an escape. I think it’s making that effort and awareness to be healthy is absolutely important.”

Gardner is using this project to illustrate to his class how “the plants are a simple solution to a straightforward problem.”

His students have a similar class assignment where they need to find a situation that needs improvement, research, plan their proposal and follow through with specific actions.

“Students have identified the need for a water filtration function, tampon dispensers in the restrooms, a need for a principal pantry for students in need, parking restriping and other ideas. They present their ideas to administration along with solutions so they learn how to take ownership and represent this project and show how it will evolve into our new school,” he said.

In Gardner’s case, the potted plants can easily be transferred into the new school’s classrooms and offices.

He said students helped to fire and glaze the pots for the staff and faculty, who were expected to receive them with their plants this spring.