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West Valley City Journal

Cultivating life skills at Roots Charter High School in WVC

Nov 08, 2018 03:08PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Junior Melodie Childers holds one of the rabbits raised on the farm at Roots Charter High School in West Valley City. (Whitney Cox/City Journals)

By Whitney Cox | [email protected]

Roots Charter High School in West Valley City is unique in that it is Utah’s first farm-based charter high school. The farm functions as a laboratory for real-world learning that coincides with the classroom lessons.

Founder and Director Tyler Bastian was teaching character education when he first came up with the idea for a farm-based curriculum. “A farm naturally teaches character. It also teaches you what is in your control and what is out of your control,” said Bastian.

The “Roots Way” focuses on this idea. Its mission is to instill in each student the understanding that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Students are taught about the things in their control: choices, actions and energy. They are encouraged to be responsible in their behavior and choices. Overall, they are taught that they will “reap what they sow” and coached to “sow goodness.” 

Roots HS values authentic learning that teaches life skills. They base their curriculum on the research that many students are motivated when they see how lessons can be applied to real life situations. “It’s the chance to get out and engage with real life experiences while getting a public education,” said Larissa Little, program director at Roots. 

Planter boxes built by the students at Roots Charter High School are overflowing with the fruits of the students’ labors. (Whitney Cox/City Journals)

 Seventeen-year-old Melodie Childers is a junior at Roots High School and speaks highly of the curriculum, confirming that she is being taught responsibility. “It’s really hands on. I’m better at learning when I am working with things, so it is easier for me to pay attention and want to go to school,” said Childers. 

The staff and faculty at Roots believe the hard work involved in farming is an invaluable life skill. The curriculum is packed with opportunities for students to complete difficult tasks and reap the benefits. 

Jared Riley and Uzziel Corona, now seniors at Roots High, were a part of the first ninth grade class when the school was established four years ago. They spoke proudly of the planter boxes they built as ninth graders that are still overflowing with produce as well as the shed they built this year. “I like how they are teaching the agricultural way, so I can raise pigs or grow things to make money,” said Riley. 

Bastian confirmed that almost everything on the farm has been built by students. This is just one example of the life skills gained at Roots HS. Other examples are helping to birth baby piglets and learning to cope with the loss of animals. For example, in September, three alpacas, two sheep and a pig were all killed by a feral dog loose in West Valley. The students at Roots HS experienced the same difficulties associated with loss that adults in the community felt, as around 40 animals in the surrounding area were lost before the dog was killed by animal control in the first week of October.

Each year, Roots HS holds a harvest festival, where they invite members of the community to buy the produce and animals the students have been working hard to raise. This year, the harvest was on Monday, Oct. 15 where the main course consisted of a roasted pig the students themselves raised. Family and community members gathered to see the students proudly display the results of their hard work. 

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