High school aquaponics greenhouse grows on after pioneer student graduates

In the spring of 2012, Pierre Beauchamp advanced his growing aquaponics experience by designing and building an aquaponics greenhouse at his high school, Del Oro High School, in Loomis, California.

Pierre discovered aquaponics on accident. At the age of 12, Pierre was introduced to hydroponics and built a small system in a backyard greenhouse at home. He learned from monitoring the systems nutrients, and adding the necessary supplements to keep his plants healthy. One morning, after the system had been growing for a few months, Pierre discovered that a frog had discovered his sump tank and decided it was a great place to lay it's eggs. Tadpoles were swimming happily in the sump tank. His appreciation for life motivated him to keep the tadpoles, and his scientific mind started monitoring the nutrients in the system to see what took place. He was excited to find that the nutrient levels maintained and the plant continued to thrive. 

In addition to Pierre's talent and enthusiasm, Del Oro High School had a farm program, and the support of FFA (Future Farmers of America) teacher Regina Dvorak provided the necessary support for Pierre to bring his vision to life. Dvorak arrived at Del Oro H.S. in 1998, and began working on the farm from the beginning. (https://sites.google.com/a/puhsd.k12.ca.us/mrs-dvorak/school-farm-facility)


Del Oro Aquaponics

Pierre graduated with the Class of 2014. And the system grows on thanks to Mrs. Dvorak's commitment and sweat, administrative and community support, innovation, and help from the FFA students. The FFA Supervised Agriculture Experience project ties directly into the school farm and the aquaponics greenhouse. Dvorak explains:

For their SAE projects, students work in the greenhouse on the aquaponics system, plant seeds and propagate plants for resale, maintain the garden boxes and other planting areas, learn about landscape maintenance, complete irrigation projects, prune the fruit trees and raise livestock.  Each spring we showcase our farm and students projects through our annual open house and plant sale.  Every Friday, students work outside on the farm either for their projects or as a collaborative effort to maintain the gardens and growing areas.

To raise funds, the students collect recyclables from the school campus, as well as complete the requirements for the agriculture incentive grant funding available each year through agriculture education.

The developments of the Del Oro farm program, have become the foundation for  a four-year educational program Dvorak is creating, called "Farm-To-Fork" The pathway for interested students consists of:

  1. Ag Science (pre-req) -take as a freshman;
  2. Ag Bio (not as a prereq; open to take as a sophmore, ideally in conjunction with Culinary 2)
  3. Culinary 1 (pre-req) - take as a freshman or sophmore;
  4. Culinary 2 (open to take as a soph or junior)
  5. Farm-To-Fork - take as a junior or a senior
    1. Agriculture - 6 weeks (perhaps breaking it up into 3 week sections)
    2. Culinary - 6 weeks (same)
    3. Internship
      1. Farm - 3 weeks
      2. Restaurant - 3 weeks

The two biggest challenges Dvorak faces, aside from pests, is time and summer mainetance. With school out of session, Dvorak spends a significant amount of her personal time tending to the farm and the aquaponics greenhouse to keep it running. The harvest she collects is preserved through canning and freezing to be used by the culinary classes the following year. To assist in the time needed to keep the farm running, Dvorak is reaching out to local community colleges and universities to arrange work based internship programs. 

To close, I will share Edutopia's wonderful segment about Pierre and the Del Oro aquaponics greenhouse. 

How Gardening Enables Interdisciplinary Learning
High school student Pierre combined biology, math, economics, and more to transform his campus greenhouse into a sustainable aquaponic system that provides fresh vegetables for the cafeteria.
OCTOBER 29, 2013

The Aquaponics Association does not have any affiliation with Del Oro High School or Del Oro Aquaponics. This blog series is a showcase of educational programs, presentations, and aquaponics projects; for the purpose of sharing the work and results being conducted in schools, colleges, and universities around the world.

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