Rebuilt greenhouse to sprout a new custom in Woodlake

Reggie Ellis

Bravo Lake continuation high school gets grant to rebuild greenhouse at Woodlake Unified’s school farm

WOODLAKE – After nearly a year of watching the grass grow in their yard at home, continuation high school students in Woodlake are hoping to see some food grow at school.

Bravo Lake teacher Steve Scott said the continuation high school was recently awarded a $27,000 grant from the Toshiba America Foundation to rebuild an existing greenhouse at the Woodlake Unified School District Farm. The money will help repair weak spots in the frame of the greenhouse, new fabric siding and plastic roof, four different hydroponic systems to grow vegetables and hooking up the greenhouse to electrical. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil using nutrient and mineral rich liquids.

“Since beginning a school year in the middle of a pandemic, I wanted to get the students involved and try and change some lives,” Scott said. “Alternative high school students are usually students who struggle in a classroom setting, so you have to get them hands-on projects.”

Scott applied for the grant in November which is dedicated to helping classroom teachers make STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning fun and successful for students. He is currently busing students in small groups to the farm each day to do the work to fix the greenhouse. On Friday, a handful of students were digging trenches to connect the structure to electricity from the Community Day School located at the farm. Two of the students working that day were senior Jorge Medina and junior Jesus Baca. For the last three months, both students said they had helped to tear down the dilapidated siding, fix the frame and dig the holes for electrical wiring. Once it’s complete, Jesus said they’re excited to be a part of the legacy of the greenhouse and getting it ready for future students to use. When asked why they wanted to work on this project, they said it was a new experience and were interested to see how the greenhouse works. Once it’s complete, Jesus said they’re excited to be apart of the legacy of the greenhouse and getting it ready for future students to use. The work they are doing also counts toward the 80 hours of community service hours Woodlake Unified students are required to have before graduating.

“There are more students out here than I ever thought there would be,” Scott said. “They are excited to be out here, be outdoors and working with their hands.”

The hydroponic greenhouse will start off growing leafy greens, lettuce, sweet peppers and tomatoes. Scott said he hopes the greenhouse will generate enough crops to send food home to the 60 students in Woodlake’s Educational Opportunity Program, which includes Bravo Lake, Community Day School and independent study.

“We chose plants that are easier to grow to make sure students are successful,” Scott said.

Scott, who has spent his entire 7-year career educating continuation high school students, said his current students will be allowed to take home the vegetables they produce with recipes incorporating the freshly-grown produce and how to prepare it. The ultimate goal, Scott said, is for the students to produce enough vegetables to fill a fresh salad bar in the high school cafeteria.

“I would love to create a YouTube Channel where students can create demonstrations of how the food they grew can be used in a recipe,” Scott said.

That’s why he has applied for a second grant to build a second greenhouse at the ag farm. The grant through the California State Lottery would provide up to $250,000 for the project if Bravo Lake is selected. The second greenhouse will be a more traditional set up growing plants in soil. Scott said awards will be announced in May.

“I’m trying to change the idea of school for them in order to have them more engaged in their school, their community and their own health,” Scott said.

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