Transforming DPACES’ Garden into an Outdoor Classroom

This post was written by Tamyra Donelson, a 2nd grade teacher at Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus Elementary School (DPACES).

Tamyra Donelson and four of her scholars with UFC’s Forrest Griffin at the nation’s largest student-ran farmers market. DPACES scholars sold nearly 165 units of produce from their school garden.

Agricultural literacy is rarely found in classrooms throughout the United States. DPACES is addressing that dilemma by allocating a curriculum-aligned garden workshop for grades K-5. During our school’s founding year, I discovered an area at DPACES with six unused garden beds. I immediately saw an opportunity to create an outdoor classroom for all of our scholars. Every DPACES scholar will engage in agricultural workshops with their entire class. DPACES scholars will be taught a variety of subjects in the garden through the use of “Green Our Planet STEAM” curriculum, which focuses on health and nutrition.

Each week, approximately 529 elementary school scholars will frequent the garden with their teachers. Scholars are responsible for harvesting all crops from the garden for distribution to their peers, families or farmers markets. Most of our student body qualifies for free lunch, and there is little to no fresh produce at the grocery stores in our community. With the guidance of a professional farmer, scholars assist with putting food into baskets or bags for distribution. Scholars will use organic methods to cultivate and maintain all the crops, including weeding, fertilizing, pest control, pruning, amending the soil, and labeling all the crops. Scholars will also serve as the official taste testers of the organic produce.

 

DPACES’ first on-site field trip was our Garden Kick Off. A local food bank, Three Square, provided more than 500 five-pound sacks of fresh produce for each family to take home. They also provided community nutrition classes and community zumba. My scholars and I canvassed Nevada’s historical Westside, spreading the word about the start of the Westside’s very own community garden. Several scholars and community members planted the very first seeds in the school garden.

With the support of DPAC’s Executive Director Adam Johnson and DPACES’ Principal Crystal Jones, I applied for grants to help make this dream a reality. We were awarded a $4,800 grant from the Nevada Department of Agriculture and a $4,000 scholarship from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. I reached out to other Nevada community gardens and corporations looking for partners to help us create and maintain the garden and landed a partnership with Green Our Planet.

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