Ciara Byrne

Teaching students to grow school garden ecosystems in the Nevada desert.

Location:

Las Vegas, Nevada

Superpower:

Storytelling

Favorite book:

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer

Challenge:

School gardens are often treated as nice bonus projects and limited to privileged, high-performing schools. But school gardens can be powerful learning environments where students engage in project-based learning about science, ecology, nutrition, and conservation – and reap the results of their teamwork in the form of fresh produce. Created within the school grounds, these natural environments can serve as powerful places of sanctuary and important tools for struggling schools and students.

Strategy:

Green Our Planet partners with schools to create school gardens and hydroponic farms across Clark County, the fifth largest and one of the lowest performing school districts in the country. Students become farm-preneurs, engaging with Green Our Planet’s outdoor and hydroponic curricula from kindergarten to fifth grade. The model engages the entire community in supporting students, from hiring local farmers to come and teach weekly environmental lessons, to bringing chefs to teach children culinary arts with the food they have grown, to partnering with bankers who help students build business plans for their farmers markets. By fifth grade, students are running the farmers markets themselves. Along the way, school gardens become areas of healing and reconnection to nature for students who are dealing with poverty, violence, and trauma. In more than 150 partner schools, Green Our Planet’s approach is reducing absenteeism and improving academic importance, setting kids on a path to success.

Greatest victory:

“On April 12, 2019, Green Our Planet hosted the largest student-run farmers market in America. Over 500 students from 49 schools came together to sell the vegetables and fruits they had grown in their school gardens. Although the market was large and loud, what the public didn’t see was all of the programming that underlaid the event: the funding and building of 165 school gardens, the creation of curricula and teacher trainings, students planting and maintaining crops, 100+ local bankers who taught the students financial literacy, and the support of countless donors. The market only occurred due to the efforts of thousands of students, teachers, administrators, community members, farmers and the Green Our Planet team working together. The largest student-run farmers market in America took an entire village to create.”

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