BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Students at the Charter School for Applied Technologies are learning the true meaning of farm to table.

Students watched as rhinos at the Buffalo Zoo ate lettuce that they’ve been growing for months as part of a school project

120 students took a field trip to the zoo Thursday, the culmination of the months-long hydroponic lettuce project.

“It’s important for them to understand what is the role of the seed all the way through to fruition and what we do with the harvest afterwards,” said the school’s greenhouse operations director, Cinde Cozad. “I’ve had children who never saw a tomato plant, have no idea where our food sources come from.”

Cozard started the hydroponic lettuce system last June.

It’s grown using a nutrient bath and no pesticides and produces 360 heads of lettuce every 60 days.

“First we have the base of course, then we have two seeds, then you put it into the base and then it takes a couple months for it to grow, then we got to see the lettuce again and we’re here,” said third-grader Kiandra Taylor.

The school partnered with the zoo and paired the program with the curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade.

“One of the things that was very important is they understood the conservation, why we go to the zoo,” Cozad said.

It all led up to the field trip where rhinos, giraffes, and gorillas ate the lettuce.

“It’s so great that the curriculum kind of built them up with some knowledge before coming, then they get to ask in-person questions, those little details they might not get from a book about this particular animal,” said Lisa Smith, the chief zoological officer.

The students loved watching their hard work come to fruition.

“It took awhile for them to come out but when they finally came out everybody was really excited,” Taylor said.

The school plans to continue the program for years to come and also has other similar programs for older students.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.