February 17, 2021
Los Altos High School will implement a new science course called Agroecology, where students will learn about environment-related topics including sustainable agriculture and botany through hands-on learning in the campus garden and classroom lab.
The course will be taught by science teacher Jacob Russo and offered as a year-long elective with minimal homework for the 2021-22 school year. Students do not need any past experience in gardening, and priority will be given to juniors and seniors, as well as students who have struggled academically in past years.
“If you enjoy gardening, want to learn more about it or want a unique experience to break up a rigorous daily schedule, Agroecology will fit the bill,” Russo said.
Each student in the course will be responsible for tending their own raised bed in a fenced off LAHS garden area and will learn how to bring a seed to harvest. Students will also conduct lab work in the classroom — typically running experiments related to plants and soil — to gain a deeper understanding of the science behind their garden work.
“The goal is to help students figure out how to create a garden that operates as a healthy ecosystem in miniature,” Russo said. “It’s very much about what can be done with yards, unused areas along sidewalks, rooftops, empty warehouses, office buildings or vacant lots in the surrounding community to help feed it.”
Beyond gardening and lab work, the class will emphasize peer bonding. As opposed to a formal classroom environment, Russo is optimistic that being in the campus garden will offer an excellent classroom community, where those who develop skills faster can assist those needing more time and students will be more likely to ask peers for help. Ultimately, students will leave the class with the necessary skills to develop a healthy garden and positively impact their local communities.
For sophomore Hazel Oxford, a passionate environmentalist, Agroecology serves as an exciting opportunity for a junior-year elective. Hazel already has experience with gardening in her own backyard, so she hopes she’ll be able to explore growing different foods that she hasn’t experimented with inside the class.
“I think I would want to grow watermelon; I don’t even know if that’s possible with the plot of land,” Hazel said. “But I think it’s just really cool that they’re giving students this kind of freedom and saying ‘Hey, you can grow this and we’re going to help you through it.’”
To learn more about the course, you can watch the course selection video here.