US (DC): Bellevue students get out of classroom for hands-on learning

On a recent afternoon, Bellevue High School junior Delaney Dunne carefully used a pair of scissors to remove the leafy green tops of several stalks of kale. She and her classmates, Alivia Wagner and Ryanne Dunn, had grown the plants using a self-contained aquaponics system at the high school. Now, they were ready to be harvested and sold.

“I enjoy being able to be a part of watching it all work,” Delaney told. “I never knew what aquaponics was before I joined, and learning about it was interesting to me.” The trio’s project is part of the school’s Bellevue BIG program, through which junior and senior students tackle a variety of service-learning projects.

“We try to get our kids out of the traditional learning environment and get them doing things they’re passionate about for the betterment of the community,” said Matt Cook, a science teacher at the middle and high school who supervises the aquaponics program.

The school has offered aquaponics as part of Bellevue BIG for about five years, growing leafy greens such as kale, watercress, and lettuce. Recently, however, Ryanne proposed new addition to the menu, and the tank now includes several logs on which golden oyster mushrooms are sprouting. “We were thinking of other things we could grow. I really like mushrooms, and I just wanted to grow food that I liked,” she said.

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