"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
Getting the school library is easy. It’s the garden that requires effort. Just ask Tim Adams, principal of Reynaldo Martinez Elementary.
For more than two years, Adams sent emails, made telephone calls and held countless meetings with city influencers, doing whatever he could to secure funding and services for an outdoor classroom and school garden. Then finally, on April 5, his persistence paid off.
Thanks to a joint effort between Zappos, Timberland and Green Our Planet, roughly 40 volunteers spent their morning transforming a 4,500-square-foot dirt lot into an area for learning. Employees planted an assortment of trees, shoveled gravel, filled garden beds with soil, assembled picnic tables and painted a vibrant, 20-foot mural.
Sitting in the heart of North Las Vegas, 700 students, ranging from 4-years-old to fifth grade, are enrolled in the highly transient, low-income elementary school.
“Every single one of our students qualifies for free or reduced lunch. That means every family is living below the poverty line,” says Adams. “We have 30 to 40 kids in The Shade Tree homeless shelter for battered women. Those come with challenges.”
Adams and his staff are doing their best to combat those challenges by creating a stable learning environment. And with the help of Green Our Planet’s outdoor garden classroom program, they’re able to extend their students’ education on subjects such as STEM, health and nutrition.
“School gardens and outside spaces can have a tremendous impact on student learning,” says Ciara Byrne, co-founder of Green Our Planet. “The process of learning through project-based or experiential learning outside has proven to engage students better and enhance their skills, and this ultimately leads to higher test scores and overall better performance at schools.”
To date, Green Our Planet has put their stamp on 110 Las Vegas Valley schools and is now the largest and most comprehensive school garden program offered in the United States. However, Byrne is far from satisfied.
“Our goal is to get a garden in every Clark County School District school and any other school in Nevada that wants one,” she says. “There are over 700 schools in the state, so I suspect we have quite a ways to go.”
As far as this particular garden goes, Adams is ever thankful to everyone who lent a helping hand and says he’s excited to see how his garden, but more importantly how his students, grows from here.
“Our community is great, and our families are great. And so this is just going to be an added piece to all the things we do here at Reynaldo Elementary.”