TOM PELTON/CBF STAFF
By Tom Pelton
fish farm is being run by a bunch of 12-
year-old kids in the basement of a
Baltimore public middle school.
The idea of training urban tilapia ranchers is certainly unorthodox. But it is part
of the philosophy of the new Green Street
Academy in Baltimore’s west side. In
addition to an aquaculture business, this
school also features chickens in class; elevated gardens; an outdoor classroom; and
a greenhouse, where students learn to
plant and harvest lettuce, kale, and other
Public middle-school students at the Green Street Academy in Baltimore learn to raise lettuce,
kale, and other vegetables and market organic food in an urban neighborhood lacking grocery
stores with fresh produce.
The Green Street Academy is using the building of the old West Baltimore Middle School,
which was shut down in part because so
The Green Street Academy teaches
conservation and sustainability, in
addition to traditional subjects and
problem-solving skills. The goal is
to prepare young people for the
green economy of the future—to
become organic farmers, wind turbine engineers, or aquaculture business
owners. Or to pursue other job options not
The Green Street Academy students are
learning how to grow tilapia in two blue
plastic 450-gallon tanks in the basement.
The 210 fish are fed organic pellets. Waste from the fish is recycled to fertilize the greenhouse
outside school, where students
grow basil, lettuce, kale, and collards. Tilapia farming has been
criticized because waste has been
dumped into rivers. But here, the
waste is handled productively.
If you sit in a classroom
all day, you won’t really learn
much about life.
—DEJOHN JACKSON, GREEN STREET ACADEMY STUDENT
The school, which has 275 students,
opened in Fall 2010 as one of six new
Baltimore public middle schools with special themes—such as technology and
design—to which all students can apply.
many kids, many from lower-income homes,
dropped out. The new academy, by contrast,
has a waiting list of 50 students eager to get
in. The percentage of the school’s students
scoring advanced or proficient on a Maryland
standardized test jumped 20 percent last year.
The students are not engaged in some utopian farming experiment—they are learning
how to be capitalists and how to brand and
market their organic fish and vegetables to
local restaurants. They are also producing
healthy food for an urban area without many
grocery stores or much fresh produce.
The academy was co-founded by veteran
principal Ed Cozzolino. “It’s been one of the
hardest things I’ve ever done,” Cozzolino
said in the school’s lobby, decorated with
plants and a fish pond. “But it’s also been
one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever
done, to be able to create a school based on
my experiences in the classroom. It’s what
challenges, motivates, and inspires kids.”
DeJohn Jackson, a seventh grader, is one of
many who loves coming to school. “If you
sit in a classroom all day, you won’t really
learn much about life,” Jackson said.
That means nutrition for the neighborhood
and food for young minds.
Last year, a group of Green Street students
enjoyed an educational exploration of
Baltimore’s harbor on a Chesapeake Bay
Foundation vessel, the Snow Goose.
Teaching young people about the natural
world has been the core of CBF’s mission
for four decades.
Learn more at www.greenstreetacademy.org.
Tom Pelton, an award-winning
environmental journalist, is
Senior Writer and Investigative
Reporter for CBF. Read his blog
30 Summer 2012 ; cbf.org