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Hydroponics systems allow for year-round horticulture education at The Dalles High School. Students start plants from seed, pictured, and learn about their entire life cycle.

The “Greenhouses for Good” project at The Dalles High School delivered its first bulk donation of lettuce to the local Oregon Food Bank last week.

The project began in the spring of 2018 and incorporates engineering, horticulture, and community service. Its goal is to build a hydroponics food structure that will contribute to local food banks.

“I like the idea of donating the food to people who need it. I like the idea of giving. I’ve never done any of this before,” said first time Garden Club member Jazmin Aviles.

Students joined the group to get hands-on experience building and learning and to contribute to the community. Many had no previous experience working with hand tools or building structures.

“What’s great is that kids are learning all of these new skills working with tools they have never used before,” commented their high school advisor, Ajay Rundell.

“Using the ancient method of farming in a totally new way, they are engineering a new solution to a historic problem: How do we feed a large population with minimal land and water resources?”

The project is a collaboration between TDHS, Wasco County 4-H, the City of The Dalles, and community enthusiasts.

Volunteer and hydroponics enthusiast Oma Richmond joined Garden Club students and high school STEM teacher Ajay Rundell in October. After working with other student groups, Richmond says, “I am so impressed by these students. They all wanted to come in over the holidays to continue getting the system built.”

The drive to transform the community has helped to transform students as well, according to a press release.

Alex Munoz joined the project because he wanted to study renewable energies. “I like the idea of building a self-sustaining system. If we could have fish in here this would be self-sustaining. I think that’s important for our future.”

Students walking into Mr. Rundell’s room now see a wall of green plant starts. “I like walking in and seeing the plants,” Alex said. “They give off a good vibe because they are growing and changing.”

As part of their research, students visited the hydroponics systems at the Bingen Food Bank and at Richmond’s home in White Salmon.

“They are so helpful. They even helped us with our home setup,” said Richmond.

Wasco County 4-H instructor Lu Seapy said, “The partnership is a wonderful example of how 4-H can support positive youth development and STEM programming in schools. The kids involved in this project have shown creativity, diligence, and enthusiasm. I’m very proud of their work.”

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