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A Tacoma Power renewable energy grant is powering a new kind of learning

The Farm at Franklin Pierce Schools is an 10-acre educational site with gardens, orchards and wetlands. Classes from each of the high schools in the district work the land together, growing more than 50,000 pounds of produce a year. The food goes back to the community and their school cafeterias, creating a circle of learning that’s growing beyond measure.

“That’s the thing about the Farm,” said Franklin Pierce School District’s agriculture career and technical educator Matt Price, “teens are learning much more than farming.”

Price said the Farm gets kids out of their classroom, out of their comfort zones and working with their hands to feed the community.

“Some people come here just to be outside and move their bodies and get out of the classroom. Some people show up in the space, looking for a connection to the community or a meaningful way to learn some science education or learn about leadership and working in community with others,” said Price. “I really just try to sit back and allow this place to be the educator.”

Two years ago, the Farm applied for a Tacoma Power Evergreen Options $50,000 renewable energy grant to install solar panels on the roof. The grant enabled them to construct a 21 kW solar photovoltaic array to reduce electricity costs and act as a solar learning lab for students. The energy collected powers the refrigerator on the Farm that houses the grown produce.

Betsy Baker, a local volunteer and Tacoma Power Evergreen Options participant knew this would be a great use of that grant. As a participant in Evergreen Options, Baker voluntarily contributes on her power bill to support renewable energy projects in the community and has the opportunity to vote on which organization is awarded the annual grant. Today, she can see the impact her vote had, working in front of her.

“It’s 10 acres, so it’s not a huge farm by industrial standards, but it reaches so many people,” she said. “It teaches people, it feeds people, and what comes out of here is spectacular produce and it’s better than I can grow at home.”

TPU Account Executive, Dave Rosholm worked with the school district on the application for the Evergreen Options grant. He said he knew the Farm was something special from the get-go.

A Tacoma Power renewable energy grant is powering a new kind of learning 1“The Farm is literally a great big circle of good things happening and the Evergreen Options program is a big circle of good things happening, and those two circles met.”

Every dollar the Farm saves on their utility bill from the 20-killowatt solar array on the barn can be put back towards the kids and teachers.

The Farm is expanding how they work with kids to earn school credits beyond science and biology. This year, one student organized a plant sale for financial algebra, and another student earned a geometry credit by building a refrigerated trailer for the Farm to use at outreach events.

Tacoma Power’s Evergreen Options program purchases certified renewable energy credits from Pacific Northwest wind and solar projects. The program also funds innovative, renewable energy projects at non-profits and schools, right in our backyard, like the FPS Farm. This year’s grant window closes August 20. Non-profits and schools can apply for a renewable energy grant of up to $50,000. Apply today!

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