The OEEC: More than just a garden

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Victoria Pedrosa, The Freelancer

Jeff Padgett enlightening his class at the OEEC.

Victoria Pedrosa, Staff Writer

Since the opening of the greenhouse in the late 1990s, teachers like Jeffrey Padgett, who teaches Environmental Science and AP Environmental Science (APES), have worked to create more hands-on learning experiences for the students in the science department.

Approximately 17 years ago, a group of students built a greenhouse in the far reaches of the school campus as an Eagle Scout project. At the time, the greenhouse was used for the school botany and biology classes until it was abandoned as a result of the California State Standards curriculum changes. It was not until four years ago that the APES class was established and Mrs. Morales, the APES instructor, decided to once again start utilizing the space.  With the assistance of Mr. David Carp, who volunteered his time and experience, they rebuilt the space and gave it the title the Outdoor Environmental Education Center.

Today the OEEC is guided under the leadership of Padgett along with others who see an extraordinary vision for the greenhouse. “I want it to be a showcase of all the different things that we study,” says Padgett. Not only is it supposed to be a garden or arboretum but also a platform for all the different units of the classes that are being studied, such as an area for the study of ecology, the study of human population area, agricultural practices, and conservation. Some of the project goals for this year include creating a haven for migrating monarch butterflies, planting native Californian trees, and many more projects that encompass the various aspects of environmental science and biology and provide a richer academic experience for everyone.

Along with its academic goals, another objective is to create a jewel at La Serna the students and faculty can be proud of. Unfortunately, rebuilding the greenhouse and making improvements to it hasn’t been easy. “A lot of what we do requires funding,” Padgett said, and many of the complications and challenges faced are because of the lack of money. It is essentially up to the teachers, students, and the Greenhouse Club to help fundraise for the OEEC and environmental projects.

“The Greenhouse is a lot more than just a garden” Padgett said. A significant lesson that the OEEC teaches is the art of taking action and the impact students can make on the environment with the knowledge learned through the classes and participation. You do not have to be in environmental science or biology to gain a better understanding of the environment either, the OEEC is for everyone, Padgett said. He encourages students who have never been up there to go and check it out and maybe even volunteer and participate in their Saturday workdays.

With leaders like Padgett, support from school administration, and student involvement the OEEC can a become highly recognized environmental program and a source of pride for La Serna. It can also pave the way for environmental outreach for future generations of students and faculty at the school.