November 1, 2023

L to R: Kassandra Rodriguez, Energize Delaware, Program Manager; Elias Pappas, Head of School; Melissa Tracy, Teacher; Jeff Koss, CFO School; Ashley Lipson, Principal/Dean High School; Traci Evans, Energize Delaware, Program Manager.

Knowing how to work harmoniously with the land, adapt to environmental changes, create a healthier food system and be good Earth stewards, has never been more important. Here in Delaware, the Odyssey Charter School in Wilmington is helping students understand the importance of changing the way food is grown and prepared.  The school’s Food Studies CTE (Career and Technical) Pathway offers students a broad understanding of environmental, cultural, social, and economics associated with our food supply.

By participating in the Pathways to Green Schools program, which is offered through a partnership with Green Building United in cooperation with the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco Schools USA Program, Delaware teachers may receive mini-grants  in an environmental or energy related field. Grants have helped schools build outdoor classrooms, add a water bottle filling station to stop the use of one-time-use plastic bottles, and more.

Through both Energize Delaware’s Pathways to Green Schools program and Energy Equity Fund, the Odyssey Charter School has received $32,900. This allowed the school to build a greenhouse with raised beds and native plants,  built an outdoor classroom with tables, including a wheelchair accessible table and benches, a compost tumblers and worm factories to help reduce waste in landfills, and bought educational resources for students to teach them about climate change and carbon sequestration.

“Whether helping fund a greenhouse, water bottle filling station, or other environmental or energy related project, ensuring our future workforce has hands-on experience and education on our environmental and energy impact is vitally important,” said Drew Slater, Executive Director of Energize Delaware. “None of this would be possible without dedicated and caring teachers such as Melissa Tracy from Odyssey Charter School.”

This year, Energize Delaware granted the Odyssey Charter School $25,200.00 to add to their hydroponics lab. They bought a Harvest Today state-of-the-art plant growing wall panel for their hydroponics lab.  The wall panels hold hundreds of hyper-nutritious plants that are pesticide and herbicide free.

Odyssey Charter School offers seniors an opportunity to earn college credits through Delaware Technical Community College by enrolling in Principles of Plant Growth, Hydroponic Production, Sustainability and Society, Future of Food, and a Work-Based Learning Internship.  Other courses offered by the school’s Food Studies CTE Pathway are Culture and Environment, History and Power, and Principles of Agricultural Science- Plant.

The hydroponics lab has a learning kitchen so students can prepare the food they grow for the table. As good stewards they take care of kitchen waste by using an indoor food composter to create quality soil they use in their outdoor gardens. The students in the Food Studies CTE Pathway grow and donate over 6,000 greens a month. They provide food for their community and learn sophisticated academic content that will help them adapt to the food supply changes future generations will face.

Melissa Tracy, Teacher

Melissa Tracy leads the food study program at Odyssey Charter School and is the only teacher in the U.S. to be a top-ten finalist in the 2023 Varkey Foundation Global Teacher prize that offers a $1 Million prize.  She is traveling to Paris, France in November for the final award presentation where the top innovator in education will be chosen.

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