Mountain View Montessori launches salad bar with new hydroponics house

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Beginning next semester, on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, Mountain View Montessori will kick off their Salad Bar Program with the construction of a new greenhouse, a project that will provide salad for the school’s entire population of 230 students once a week.

This program is returning  to Mountain View’s lettuce-growing roots, being that the school started experimenting with smaller amounts of hydroponically grown lettuce over 10 years ago. This program serves as a hands-on micro-economy for 7th and 8th grade students.

In keeping with the Montessori tradition of viewing children as agents of their own learning, the Salad Bar Program engages adolescents in each aspect of the operation. From selecting seed varieties, to planting and monitoring the greens, to harvesting and distributing lettuce to the rest of the school; the students have the opportunity to grow individually, outside of the classroom with these hands-on experiences.

“Through purposeful and collaborative work in the hydroponic house and Salad Bar Program, adolescent students develop a deeper social awareness for the welfare of others. Providing healthy nutritious food for 250 children and staff each week, adolescent students develop an authentic connection and valued contribution to their school community. This is the root of empathy,” says Head of School, Mary Levy. 

The program is made possible by the construction of a new 18’ x 24’ polycarbonate-skinned building, which was built over the course of the summer with donated materials and labor from Altmann Construction. Growing equipment such as grow lights, pumps, and harvesting tools were partially funded by a three-year Specialty Crop grant from the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

In the coming growing seasons, students are looking forward to branching out from basic greens to offering additional hydroponic crops such as strawberries, peppers, and cucumbers. There is even some talk within the Garden & Greenhouse committee students about the possibility of aquaponics in the future. The program will also complement the work that the students already do in their year-round garden and established greenhouse.

“It’s essential that the Salad Bar is student-centered,” says Garden Specialist Josie Glassberg. “The idea for the program might come from a community need for super healthy, super local food, but it’s just as much about giving service opportunities to adolescents who are ready for that kind of independence…not to mention younger children who are ready for that kind of eating habit.”

Schools and teachers interested in finding out more about the program or taking a tour can contact the school directly (775) 852-6162 or sign up for the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s annual School Garden Conference, hosted at Mountain View Montessori.

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