While drought-stricken Californians have let their thirsty lawns go brown, San Diego schools have had to get creative to minimize their water footprint – sometimes at the cost of education.
When we met with Lara Dickens, the Environmental Science teacher at Patrick Henry High School, she told us that they had to turn off the water in their school garden because of restrictions. “Our students were unable to water our plants, so our vegetable garden was left abandoned.”
Dickens saw this issue as a powerful teaching moment. Dickens happened upon ECOLIFE’s ECO-Garden Program, which involves using a water-efficient form of agriculture, known as aquaponics, to inspire creativity in students by designing a sustainable solution for growing vegetables and produce. The ECO-Garden uses 90% less water and land compared to traditional agricultural methods, while providing students with hands-on, project-based learning experiences.
In partnership with ECOLIFE Conservation and a generous gift from Kiwanis Club of San Diego and San Diego Kiwanis Club Foundation, Dickens and several other teachers are now working with over 100 Patrick Henry students who have designed, engineered, budgeted, and participated in building their school’s aquaponic system. The system will be used as a living lab, growing not only fresh vegetables and fish, but encouraging greater awareness of how sustainable technologies can better conserve our precious resources. Our Educational Manager here at ECOLIFE, Kait Cole, heads up this program and sees the connection firsthand: “I feel truly inspired to engage students in hands-on learning projects as well as educating our youth about the importance of living an eco-friendly lifestyle. The ECO-Garden represents a real-life demonstration of how sustainable technologies can protect our environment.”
Along with the educational benefits that the ECO-Garden provides, this program has inspired students at Patrick Henry to take ownership and leadership through creating an aquaponics club, even spearheading another system in the coming semester. One student, Olivia Young, shared with us that she is starting her own system as a way of providing fresh produce for the low-income families in her area. The way the students care about the ECO-Garden proves that this is not a typical school project- this is a way for students to learn about sustainable solutions and the powerful impact that they can have on their communities.
Patrick Henry is the first of 15 schools to receive an ECOLIFE ECO-Garden, a program supported by the Kiwanis Club of San Diego, San Diego Kiwanis Club Foundation, and the Cox Cares Foundation.
Check out the video of our build day at Patrick Henry High School below!