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West Valley City Journal

Roots Charter High School—a school where farming and learning combine

May 02, 2022 09:19PM ● By Liz Craker

As part of their hands-on learning, Roots High School students spend time working on the farm. (Photo courtesy of Roots High School)

By Liz Craker | [email protected]

Roots Charter High School, Utah’s first farm-based charter high school, is planning a spring festival from 4-8 p.m. on May 5 at the school’s farm located at 1301 Cesar Chavez Drive in West Valley. 

During the festival students, parents, and community members will be able to enjoy food truck concessions, a bouncy house and a petting zoo. Students also will be selling garden starter plants as well as art and other products they have created this school year, Principal Tyler Bastian said. The school is also offering a flower share program June 29 through Aug. 31. For $210 people can receive a hand-picked bouquet each week for 10 weeks or a half share every other week for $115.

The school, located at 2250 S. 1300 West in West Valley, was founded by Bastian in 2015. In addition to teaching, math, reading and science, the 200-student school operates a farm for hands-on learning experiences.

Bastian was inspired to open the charter school after teaching character development at a school in South Jordan.

“My class was filling up with students who were disengaged and struggling. They were starving for attention and personal connection,” he said. “So, I began researching a way to teach on a more natural level.”

Roots students still attend common core classes, Bastian explained. “We then integrate farm into the curriculum and the curriculum into the farm. A math class can go outside and do hands-on activities to support what the class just learned inside,” he said.

Students who come to Roots are often behind in credits, so the school offers several summer school sessions at no charge. During the year, Roots enrollment is purposefully kept small Bastian said. “We want students to feel seen, that every adult in the building knows them, and that they have positive connections,” he added.

Since many Roots families experience financial stress, the school has funding to provide free lunch to every student every day, to provide a food pantry, and to offer free public transportation passes.

Bastian shared that most of the students are at-risk and have failed other programs. He sees success in that he has had parents comment that their children have grown from never wanting to talk about school or go to school. After being at Roots, they become students who are eager to go to school and share with their parents about what they did all day. “Students start to feel more positive about life, and this helps the parent/child relationships,” Bastian said.

Previous students have been so proud of their experience at the high school that it is not uncommon to have three or more graduates a week visit, he added. Many have gone on to work in area businesses. Bastian said that local businesses have hired current students and the businesses collaborate with the school to manage the students’ schedules and work-place transition. “It’s like a net under a trapeze of real life,” he said.

For more information about the spring festival or the flower share program, contact the school at 385-715-2591 or [email protected].