PRESCOTT, Ariz. (KSAZ) - When you think of boarding schools many think of east coast ivy-covered buildings, or even the Harry Potter movies; you don't think small town Arizona.
But one of the top boarding schools in the country is located outside Prescott where wild west meets academics.The Orme School is proving to be a leader in sustainability and environmental studies.
It's a former ranch turned boarding school.
The Orme School started in the late-1920's partially out of the need for the family who owned the ranch to educate their children, and the ranch hand's children. It was all done in this old adobe school house. It had living quarters for students who still use it for classes. Equine studies are taught in the building.
There are brackets up to the ceiling which originally had beds. The school was also entirely self-sufficient. It was originally a necessity, but now that resourcefulness is attracting people to the school.
Orme School has students from 17 countries and 11 states.
"This is my second home; I love it. I absolutely love it," said Lera Veronina.
"In St. Petersburg during the winter, the sun comes down from Noon to 5. We're in school, so we don't get to get out, but here you are with nature, you can see squirrels running around, it's just amazing," said Lera.
Veronina has class in the garden where she built a bench as part of a school project.
"The bench is made of cobb. Clay, sand, water, and some straw mixed. It's built with the same technique as the school on campus. The whole back structure is built with plastic water bottles filled with dirt. We have one more layer to put on, so it's waterproof," she said.
The plant science class is picking fresh vegetables to bring to the kitchen for lunch. Across campus, Alex Aleman is growing using a different method.
"This is my aquaponic system. We have fish in this tank, and it's connected to the growing bed. So the fish excrete their ammonia from their gills, and it converts the ammonia to nitrate which the lettuce uses. So I feed the fish daily and they do their thing," said Alex Aleman.
He learned all of this stuff in the classroom and then put it to the test.
"Three months ago I planted seeds, I went on spring break, and the whole table was covered in green. I was like wow, I was kind of expecting it. It was amazing to see the whole system coming into play," he said.
Alexman is an inner-city kid from Los Angeles that plans to study environmental science in college and make a living doing this kind of work.
The key of the school is putting the academics to practical use.
"We get as local as possible, as fresh as possible," said Patti Mars.
Mars runs a farm to table program at the school.
"They plant the seeds, they transplant, they grow, they harvest. They prep it, cook it and eat it. Then all the waste is composted. We have a 100% compost kitchen," said Mars.
Many come for the draw of the western lifestyle that helped make Orme famous. The country boarding school is becoming famous for its sustainability program.