Middlebury High School colors are orange and black, but it's the campus greenhouse that has some students beaming with school pride.
"I came not liking dirt and now I love getting my hands dirty," said Liz Scott, a junior at the school.
The school district spent 50-thousand dollars building the greenhouse for students in the alternative education program, where the vision of education is a little different.
"The school is a big place, it's easy to get lost or get in trouble. We have a pretty small space with lots of teachers there. It makes them feel safer, and they can do better," said Steve Colangeli, a teacher in the Alternative Education Program.
The program averages 15 students per year. They spend half their day in the greenhouse where they earn their science and math credits. But teachers admit not all of the skills gained in the greenhouse translate to traditional testing.
"I kind of look at what is the priority. With our students, really getting them engaged and keep them in school is the priority to me. More of a priority than worrying about test scores some times. But at the same time we are hitting some of those similar concepts -- they do some pretty high level math, algebra," Colangeli said.
For the first harvest of the year the students invited a local pre-school class to help them out, planting the seeds for future learners.
"We actually get an experience on how to plant and grow our own food," said Johnny Hatch, a senior in the program.
The students are growing organic lettuce. Two students share each bed, filling it with the varieties of their choice.
"We have varieties of lettuce that can handle pretty cold temperatures as well as spinach, beets, and Swiss chard greens," Colangeli said.
Once the veggies are harvested, they are taken to the cafeteria where they pay 7-dollars a pound and are served to students daily.
"I kind of didn't even really think about it -- food was food. Now I see we are actually paying attention in growing it and see how many people are enjoying it in the cafeteria -- it makes me feel happy," Hatch said.
Students say this experience is growing their understanding of the local food movement and sustainability.
"It's not coming from Florida, Georgia, California. We are saving energy in many ways, like with gas, and we are helping the eco- system by taking it a couple hundred yards to the cafeteria," Liz Scott said.
The hope is to expand their vegetable output by creating a student-run summer program in the future.
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