Creating a School Gardens Program in the Challenging Environment of Las Vegas, Nevada

in HortTechnology

An important element of the social horticulture program at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has been the creation of school gardens to enhance educational efforts for children in Las Vegas. Since 2002, a variety of methods has been employed to train teachers and administrators in using gardens, and this has resulted in establishment of successful gardening programs. Southern Nevada has experienced a 400% population increase in 25 years. Results of surveys of area stakeholders between 2000 and 2002, Clark County elementary school staff in 2001, and Clark County school principals in 2004, indicate a desire to incorporate gardens in schools, but concerns about establishing and maintaining them persist. Furthermore, apprehension about trying to garden under challenging climatic conditions characteristic of the Mojave Desert is expressed frequently, as is hesitation about using gardens to enhance the school curriculum in at-risk schools. When offered training in use of gardens, however, a majority of principals surveyed responded positively. They also expressed interest in tracking the educational and social impacts of gardens on students and faculty. This article reports on results of community stakeholder meetings and surveys of Clark County schools, as well as the methods that are being used to create a school gardens program in the most rapidly growing metropolis in the United States.

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e-mail: ocallaghana@unce.unr.edu

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