Sustainability & Student Learning at Hixson High
Posted on 04/22/2023
Sustainability & Student Learning at Hixson HighHixson High School’s Agriculture Education Program started in 2011, leading to two current pathways, Horticulture Science and Animal/Veterinary Science. All students start with an introduction to Agriscience before choosing their preferred program. The program includes two hydroponic greenhouses, a dog grooming program, and a vet science program containing mini horses, chickens, and goats.

Lee Friedlander, an AG Science Teacher at Hixson with a focus on the greenhouse program, has a passion for connecting classroom learning to the real world. “We don’t do made-up assignments, we produce products. We don’t deal with hypotheticals we solve our actual problems. “

Students in this program learn a wide variety of topics, such as energy production techniques and when they are usable, farming practices, systems growth, and more. In the School-Based Farm-to-School program, students learn how to manage labor, grow a perishable product, the logistics and timing, and the importance of Food Safety. Students also learn how to use the equipment, materials, and supplies and how to build a network of support, including local community partners.

Friedlander emphasizes the importance of this program and student learning by saying, “We give students the opportunity to learn at a place where getting it right matters, but failure is still okay.”

The students learn how to build efficient systems and practices within their greenhouse, a skill that translates far beyond agriculture science. They are taught to find best practices and build capacity while still maintaining a quality product.

In one of the greenhouses, the students produce lettuce using their hydroponic system, and provides the lettuce to Hixson High and Hixson Middle to use in their cafeterias. If they ever have any additional crops, they also source out to local restaurants such as Bread and Butter.

When asked about the why the production of lettuce for was his favorite activity in the program Jarrius Bulloch, a junior in the Horticulture Program, stated, “We are doing it for a reason; it's not just a class activity.”

The Horticulture Program uses sustainable practices by using solar panels, composting, and growing native plants. They try to use efficient systems where possible to be partially self-sustainable while also creating both an engaging and environmentally friendly learning environment.

The waste from their greenhouses primarily goes to NewTerra compost which is a community partner that provides them composting pick-up for free in exchange for hosting their kiosk that serves our larger community.

What they do not provide to NewTerra is either composted for their use or to sell back to the community during their annual plant sale. The program cultivates native plants that can be sold to the community and benefits our environment, as well as be reimbursed for those with homes inside Chattanooga City limits.

Nathaniel Esch, a junior in Friedlander’s program, spoke about why he enjoys the program- specifically the annual plant sale and he stated, “It’s a real world business, with real world skills.”

Overall Hixson has cultivated a program that provides community partnership, sustainable practices, and, most importantly, engaged real-world student learning. This program teaches students in a way that is applicable across careers and goals and is a great example of career and technical education in our district.