Don’t Miss the Life Skills Plant Sale at La Pine High School

The 2019 Life Skills Annual Plant Sale at the La Pine High School is just around the corner, and it’s hard to tell who is more excited—the students who’ve been tending the plants, or the customers who come to buy them.

From May 21st through May 24th, the students open the greenhouses to the public. They sell hanging baskets, annual plants and flowering perennials that they’ve been cultivating all spring. The sale begins at 10 a.m. but fans of the plant sale arrive before the doors open.

“You have to get here early because a lot of people want the hanging baskets,” advises Loretta-Mae Coleman, a senior at La Pine High School. Coleman has been helping in the greenhouse throughout high school, and says that she has learned a lot about customer service and about working with others. After she graduates this spring, Coleman may continue her education in the Transition Network, and plans to find employment where she can use the skills she’s gained through internships and work experiences.


About the Greenhouse Program

Ken Thorp, La Pine Special Education teacher, started the greenhouse program about 15 years ago. A grant from the Oregon Education Foundation provided “seed money” to purchase the original greenhouse and get the program rolling. Proceeds from the sales are re-invested to purchase supplies and expand the program. The potted plants and baskets now fill three greenhouses, and keep 17 life skills students busy all spring.

“The kids are involved every step of the way,” said Thorp. Planning for the next school year’s plants begins right after the annual sale. Students review the top sellers and browse through garden catalogs. They discuss colors, quantities, plant varieties for the Central Oregon climate, and ways to improve the plant combinations. Together, they place the order for next year’s plants.

The greenhouse work starts up again in November, when two tons of bagged soil arrives at the school. The students move the soil into the greenhouse fire-brigade style, which Thorp described as “a lot of work but a lot of fun!” They clean and prepare the greenhouse for planting season, which starts in February.

The starter plants, called plugs, are just a few inches long when they are delivered. Students start by planting plugs for the hanging baskets, then work on planting the perennials and annual plants in pots. By late March, the students have planted between 7000 and 8000 plugs. Once the planting is complete, students take care of watering and trimming for the best shape, and tags pots and baskets for the sale.


Learning both high-tech and low-tech skills

In past years, students used an old-style cash register during the sale. This year, they’ll be learning new technology for retail work, using iPads to swipe credit cards and process payments.

The low-tech skills are just as important, for any work environment. Thorp listed skills such as customer service, communication with co-workers, caring for equipment, and record keeping. “These are transferable skills that apply to all sorts of jobs, and they help kids develop a good work ethic,” he said.

Coleman added that learning to work as a team is important. “When we’re all packed into the greenhouse for planting it’s easy to lose your temper, but we have to figure it out and work together and get it done.

And her favorite part of the greenhouse program? Coleman said, “I like to see how happy people are when they buy the plants. I’m proud of the plants we grow.”

The Life Skills Plant Sale is open to the public 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 21-22 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 23-24. The La PIne High School is located at 51633 Coach Road in La Pine