Assessment Challenge: How can students participate meaningfully in the mass production of poinsettias (in the greenhouse) while also social distancing?

Solution: While a technician takes over the mass production in the greenhouse, students can grow their own poinsettias at home and blog about the experience, cross-referencing the technician’s blog at the same time.

For the past two years, horticulture students have been spending their fall semester growing the poinsettias that VIU sells every December. The poinsettia project is a rich example of a student-centered, engaging and authentic assignment that has students working in teams, in charge of growing and marketing poinsettias and gaining hands-on experience with various aspects of large scale greenhouse production. However, this year, amid COVID concerns, the program determined that the poinsettia project would not be able to go forward as usual. How could the program pivot to continue to provide students a hands-on opportunity to experimentally grow poinsettias, and learn as they go?

Christine Quist, instructor and technician in the program, valiantly took over the greenhouse production of the poinsettias, but not in isolation. Instead, students were given 6 poinsettia plants each, a growing kit consisting of a mobile climate room (grow tent); a fan; a grow light with timer; a heating pad; a temperature gauge; and a humidity gauge. With limited involvement growing poinsettias in the greenhouse, students would grow their own at home and blog about their progress. In a parallel way, Christine created an instructional blog, capturing her experiences at the greenhouse, providing updates, growing strategies, and guidance for students. Students meanwhile share their journeys, updates and observations through their own blogs.

Christine Quist’s Poinsettia Production Blog