In many ways, Yerba Buena High School in East San José is like any other school: a public, four-year high school with a big, sprawling campus and plenty of green lawn. This fall, something wonderful and unusual is happening on the campus: a quarter-acre of that lawn adjacent to a parking lot is being transformed into a sustainable living teaching center, complete with chickens, aquaponics, food scrap composting, wind turbines, solar panels and more. A grant from the California Department of Water Resources and funding from the Santa Clara Valley Water District is helping with the low-water use ornamental/habitat landscaping.
This is Project TERRA, which stands for Teaching Environmentally Responsible and Respectful Attitudes and teaches students ecological sustainability, environmental awareness, and responsible agricultural practices. Students will use this space to create an outdoor classroom that will inspire as well as give first-hand knowledge of food production and the principles of sustainable farming and landscaping. Just how special is this project? Here are a few features:
Students have been involved every step of the way, from helping to design the landscape and features to helping to build the structures to collecting the eggs from the chickens (and selling them to the teachers and staff on campus for – you guessed it – chicken feed).
“I’ve never worked with a more motivated and hard-working group of students and teachers,” said Sherry Bryan, project manager from Ecology Action, the non-profit that led the area’s transformation including the landscape conversion and irrigation system installation.
Collaborative effort with the community. Project TERRA is a collaborative effort between students, clubs, classes and a wide variety of community stakeholders, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the California Department of Water Resources, Ecology Action, Orchard Supply Hardware, Our City Forest and others.