Growing food for the cafeteria and citizen scientists for the community

The School-Age Green Education Committee (SAGE) of NoVA Outside, a regional alliance of environmental educators, hosts monthly visits to area schools that are open to anyone — ANYONE — interested in the topic. The visits usually focus on a school garden, but in February, participants will learn about something unusual: how to raise tilapia and grow plants hydroponically. At the host school, George Mason High School, the harvests are enjoyed by students in the cafeteria. No RSVP is needed — just show up!
WHEN: 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, February 1, 2017
WHERE: George Mason High School, 7124 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-3-43-28-pmLast spring George Mason High School students started growing lettuce hydroponically — in water instead of soil — and created a self-filtering aquaculture system to raise tilapia. Their goal: to serve the greens and fish in the school cafeteria. Hear from students, science teacher Peter Mecca and special education teacher Jamie Lahy about the two programs, then go on a tour to see the systems in operation. This program is appropriate for educators at all grade levels, although the more technical aspects will be geared toward educators of older students.

GMHS is a leader in hands-on science learning. The school also grows brook trout for the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, monitors local streams for E. coli and macroinverebrates (aquatic critters), removes invasive species on the Appalachian Trail, and joined the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District in a two-year study to determine the effectiveness of using the radishes to relieve urban soil compaction. Dr. Mecca, who teaches biology and ecology, received the 2015 Conservation Education Teacher of the Year Award from the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

You can learn more about the school’s programs at or by listening to a podcast of the Nov. 2, 2016, Kojo Nnamdi show at

DIRECTIONS: GMHS is located near I-66 on Route 7 and is a block from the West Falls Church Metro station. From I-66, take exit 66, turn right onto eastbound Route 7, then turn left at the first light onto Haycock Rd/Shreve Rd. Take the first possible left (no light) to turn into the high school parking lot.
QUESTIONS? Contact Stacey Evers at 703-346-8530 or

If you would like to apply to host a SAGE School Meetup at your school, email Trish Wotowiec at

Please join us as we discuss successes, challenges, and best practices at elementary, middle and high schools across our region in our series of NoVA Outside’s SAGE School Meetups! Discover NoVA Outside’s other programming and enjoy expanding your networks and accessing additional resources. Here’s to growing “green” in our schools!


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