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Ashwaubenon High School teacher helps students grow their own food

(WLUK/Pafoua Yang) 

ASHWAUBENON (WLUK) -- After years of planning, Ashwaubenon High School science teacher Dan Albrent said he finally found a way to bring gardening into the classroom.

"My ultimate goal would be for the entire Ashwaubenon district," Albrent said. "We're providing all the lettuce and then from then on the tomatoes, and eventually make enough money to put on a greenhouse to our school and to keep it going."

Albrent wanted to develop a science curriculum to include science and landscape. His students will learn how to grow fruits and vegetables. Students will also learn how to grow lettuce without soil, a process called hydroponics.

"When we go out in the courtyard and one kid goes 'hey my lettuce is better than your lettuce', that's the kind of competition and pride that I want them to take with them," Albrent said.

According to Albrent, students could produce about 300 heads of lettuce in 45 days. One way to make lettuce without soil is by using fish.

"Basically we have tanks on the side that will eventually cycle through our fish. Fish will produce the bacteria, the bacteria will be living inside the tube and inside some of the filters, breaking down fish waste. The plants will suck up those nutrients, clean out water a bit and then it's a conserve system."

Albrent started working on the school's courtyard four years ago. The yard includes fruit trees, strawberries, native wildflowers and a tomato jungle. Albert plans to grow native trees and raise chickens in the near future. Currently, the courtyard has an unfinished chicken coop. The science teacher said he comes up with the ideas and the students take over the projects.

The plan is to sell fresh produce to Ashwaubenon Food Service for a cheaper price, while making the school some profit. The district's nutrition expert and a member of LIVE 54218, Betsy Farah, said she's eager to see students eat what they make.

"For me its very exciting that I finally have someone like Dan to help me get the message that nutrition is science, science relates to health and we want our students to be healthy," Farah said.

Farah also adds that the gardening goes beyond science and economics.

"Having the courtyard garden incorporates many facets of curriculum. Art, it's fabulous for art with the color and organization of the plots. Science of course. Math (with) multiplying and nutrition, so it's endless, actually."

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