Las Vegas Sun

January 21, 2019

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Schools, local business use gardens to educate students on farming, finance

Green Our Planet Market

L.E. Baskow

Some of the fine items for sale during a farmers market at Zappos sponsored by Green Our Planet, an organization that has overseen the development of more than 100 gardens at local schools to help teach STEM in schools on Thursday, May 4, 2017.

Green Our Planet Market

Vi'Ance Easter talks veggies with his daughter Shiori, 8, as they relax about their stall for the Cunningham Elementary school garden on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Green Our Planet partners with Zappos, CCSD, and schools around the valley to help organize the largest student ran farmer's markets in the nation, and the largest known student garden program to date. Launch slideshow »

Participation

• 29 Clark County elementary, middle and high schools and more than 220 students participated at the Zappos campus.

• 3 Special Education classes attended

• More than 3,000 teachers use the STEM program in conjunction with the gardens, meeting both Nevada and Next Generation Science Standards crafted by the National Research Council.

• Students sold more than $6,500 in produce and crafts

For the second time this year, Green Our Planet, an environmental crowdfunding platform based in Las Vegas, partnered with Zappos to host the largest student-run farmers market in the nation on Nov. 16.

Both organizations plan to continue the event biannually, with another farmers market planned for next spring.

Through Green Our Planet’s Farmpreneur Program, fifth-graders — and select high school and middle school classes — learn the challenges and rewards of running a business.

The farmers market is a collection of schools, some of which have had a garden for four years and some that developed one only a month ago, like Cunningham Elementary School.

“It helps students develop social skills, healthy eating values, teaches them about working together and science,” said Tanya Perez-Willis, a teacher. “My third-graders are starting to learn about composting. We’re using the money from today to purchase the compost.”

Cunningham Elementary student Shiori Easter, 8, and her father worked the farmers market. He watched as she explained to the customers about how students dried herbs from their gardens to make their “Turkey Seasoning” blend, or about how to use lemongrass and lavender to make homemade tea.

In addition to learning business skills and the science of composting, Easter was exposed to food she never had before, like honeydew.

“It’s sweet, like cantaloupe,” she said.

Roger Bryan Elementary School

Roger Bryan Elementary School is a Title I school. Sixty percent of its students are enrolled in free or reduced-price lunch, and 27 languages are spoken at the school.

The garden helps unite a diverse group of students, said Michelle Foucault, who has taught at the school for 15 years. They’ve had the garden for about a year, and have participated in the Zappos farmers market both times.

In addition to selling the fall harvest, students sold handmade magnets made from recycled mason jar lids and baby jars. Some read “Vegas Strong” and others had sayings like “Be a pineapple: stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet on the inside.”

The latter was fifth-grader Helina Kal-Ab’s favorite. Helina helped operate the school’s booth on Nov. 16.

“It’s fun to show what we’ve created, and show people you can reuse things,” she said. “If we keep using new things, our resources will run out.”

Coronado High School and Arbor View High School

Daniel Wheelock has taught in Arbor View’s special education classrooms for four years, focusing on severely emotionally challenged children. In the two years Arbor View has operated a garden, he has seen a difference in the “maturity levels” of the children.

“They take ownership and pride in what they’re doing,” Wheelock said.

Coronado and Arbor View high schools’ special ed classes both participated in the farmers market.

Gary Manning has taught special ed life skills at Coronado for six years. The school’s garden is in its fourth year, and Coronado has participated in both Zappos farmers markets. The school’s garden has 28 fruit trees, growing lemons, limes, peaches, plums and apples.

Manning hopes the students in his class learn three skills: listening, following directions and interacting with other people. He said the garden program helps his students master all three skills.

“They don’t even realize that they’re working,” Manning said. “And the bonus is we get to eat what we grow. By developing working skills, almost everyone can work toward independence. They can go anywhere, at any job and work for anybody.”

Manning has watched several of his students mature, including Tateonna Hass, 18, who expertly counted change for the purchase of one shockingly large Moapa Valley squash. She plans to be a chef when she finishes high school.

“I love eating what we grow — especially limes,” Tateonna said.