Terra Nova School of Science and Sustainability, Beaverton School District

Joel Whitmore, Farmer/Educator

13051 NW Thompson Rd, Portland, OR 97229


[email protected]

Link to our webpage

Mission: We are a project-based science and sustainability school that empowers students to grow food, build community, and engineer solutions.

Program Description: Terra Nova School of Science and Sustainability is an options science program in the Beaverton School District, where students from all six high schools in the district have the opportunity to earn chemistry and biology credits, while learning how to grow, cook, and eat healthy food. We operate on our own campus – an elementary school transformed into a living laboratory; gym turned woodshop, cafeteria turned classroom, classroom turned commercial kitchen, and baseball field turned 1.3 acre farm. Approaching sustainability from three lenses – environmental, social, and economic – students learn to think critically about real world problems that we face today, and act creatively for real world solutions.  

We are an Oregon Department of Education Career and Technical Education Program of Study (CTE POS) in Agriculture.  Accreditation requires alignment with industry standards at the secondary, post-secondary and career levels. A CTE Program of Study (POS) prepares students for the workplace, further education, training, and community roles.  

Program of Study

Field Biology and Sustainable Practices: This lab-based, hands-on course covers the principles of biology through the lens of sustainable agriculture. All Oregon state standards for Biology, Scientific Inquiry, and Engineering Design are integrated in the course and students study biochemistry, cellular processes, genetics, evolution, sustainability, and ecology. Technological, historical, political, and environmental aspects of biology and sustainability are also addressed. Students construct farming infrastructure and aquaponics systems, plant, tend, harvest, and cook food grown by aquaponics, hydroponics, organic, and permaculture techniques.

Applied Chemistry and Sustainable Foods: Next generation science standards cross cutting concepts and chemistry learning targets are used as a framework to help students explore how chemistry relates to food production and preparation. Students learn and experience chemistry through experimentation and engineering healthy food to eat and value-added products to sell. Students work on the farm, in the kitchen, and in the classroom during this course. Students learn to cook with sustainably produced ingredients and develop an understanding of the chemical reactions and physical changes that take place during preparation and preservation of foods. We track all the components of our food through the entire food cycle from farm to plate.

Independent Study Program: Students who have completed one or two years of study at Terra Nova have the opportunity to build their own year-long independent study course. With support from teachers, students develop their own syllabus, including learning targets, academic scientific research and hands-on projects, in the kitchen, garden, and/or woodshop. These students act as leaders for younger students in the program and direct their own learning, based on personal interested and program needs. Examples of independent study projects include managing large-scale production hydroponics systems, crop planning for a spring plant sale, designing and building propagation stations to improve seed starting, managing a large-scale greenhouse build, growing plants for seed, and managing propagation for field production and plant sale. Students follow their interests and develop practical problem-solving skills that will serve them in real-life circumstances.

Summer Crew: During the summer, we hire 16 students (8 during each month long session) to manage the farm and run a weekly farmstand. Students are paid to work as farm crew – weeding, watering, planting, maintaining, harvesting, and running the weekly farmstand. They gain valuable professional experience in leadership, teamwork, problem solving, time management, and work ethic. Two students during each session serve as student leaders – farm manager and market manager. These students take on additional leadership roles, making decisions on what needs to get done and leading other students in accomplishing those goals. Each week, we cook and eat a healthy meal together, from food we grew ourselves!

Food grown at Terra Nova School of Science and Sustainability is:

  1. Cooked and eaten by students as part of school programming

  2. Sent home with students who shop at the outstanding “free farmstand”

  3. Sold to the Beaverton School District and served in school cafeterias throughout the district

  4. Sold at an affordable price to Beaverton School District families in conjunction with free summer meal sites

  5. Donated to local food pantries