- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Deadheading a flower, Zoe Conrad demonstrated, is similar to snapping your fingers.

Conrad pinched the head of an orange-and-red marigold between her thumb and index finger. Her hands were brown and dusty, her fingernails caked with dirt.

Conrad gently twisted the stem below the vibrant flower, and the blossom popped off into her hand. There was nothing wrong with that particular marigold, but deadheading a flower will trigger the growth of a new blossom.

Conrad and her classmates want the flowers they are growing in the Hoosier Hills Career Center greenhouse to bloom as big and brightly as possible for this week’s flower sale.

“I feel like we’re actually learning more of what will help us in the real world,” said Conrad, a senior in her second year at the career center.

Juniors and seniors from area schools can spend half their day at high school and the other half in a career development program at Monroe County Community School Corp.’s Hoosier Hills Career Center.

In Amy Remsburg’s horticulture and landscaping classes, students have spent months watering and fertilizing seeds, managing the growth of herbs and labeling the thousands of plants available for sale this Thursday and Friday, just in time for Mother’s Day.

“Not every kid learns by book work,” Remsburg said.

Her kids learn by getting their hands dirty.

Students like Conrad and greenhouse manager Josh Jachim hope to attend college after graduation to pursue careers in agriculture. In the Hoosier Hills greenhouse, they learn how to divide one plant into several new plants, a process called propagating.

Students prep and plant seeds, then transplant those seedlings into larger growing containers. They’ve transplanted purple, light pink and magenta calibrachoa and verbena flowers into white hanging baskets that will sell for $12 each at the Thursday and Friday plant sale.

“This is a better classroom,” Jachim said. “This actually gives more hands-on (experience in) the subject matter you hope to work with some day.

Dedra Bennett, a senior in her first year at the Hoosier Hills Career Center, has spent the past several weeks labeling tomato and pepper plants and maintaining the growth of dill, basil, chamomile, parsley and catnip to help the annual plant sale run as smoothly as possible.

The people who stop by will have questions about where certain plants are located within the greenhouse, and where they might grow best once planted in a garden. Bennett wants to be prepared to answer anything.

“You have to be able to tell them a little bit about the plant,” Bennett said.

The plant sale itself is also a learning opportunity. Remsburg wants her students to be able to identify the plants they work with, and also have practical skills they can use after graduation on the job at a big box store or nursery.

“They will learn how to work with the public,” she said.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1SNlhJC

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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