This past August, South Pointe High School Service Learning class entered a partnership with ASU School of Sustainability, Valley View Elementary School, and Phoenix Crisis Nursery. We knew from the beginning that this was a unique opportunity and we needed to ensure that we utilized our resources well. The ASU School of Sustainability provided us with a intern, Tamara Lawless, who was also working with Valley View Elementary. She began working with the Service Learning students in September, doing mini workshops on sustainability and gardening. In these workshops, we began the discussion about having our own garden however, we needed space and materials. Tamara, helped us create the partnership with Valley View Elementary School, which is located a mile and half down the street from South Pointe High school, and they donated a space in their Orchard. This space, allowed us to finally cultivate our very own garden, the Griffin Garden!
The students also volunteer once a week at Phoenix Crisis Nursery, which is the Valley’s longest standing shelter for abused, neglected, and at risk children. Our class started off the year, researching the issue of child abuse in Arizona and discovering ways they could raise awareness and funds to support the Nursery. Every Thursday, the class boards the bus to take our journey to Downtown Phoenix and spend time with the children who live in the Nursery. We started off the year with the students just talking one on one with each child and engaging in free play on their playground while we were there. This soon evolved and the students begin creating and implementing curriculum that is based around early childhood development. Students noticed that the Nursery had a small flower garden located near their Preschool classroom. They started asking questions about their garden and how they could incorporate the Griffin Garden as a project that benefits the children at the Nursery as well. Late September 2011, South Pointe Service Learning students developed an idea that tied the three relationships together and broke us back full circle. They decided to use the Griffin Garden produce they harvest to sale to the Phoenix Downtown Market for profit. The profit they generate from the produce sales, they then will use to buy materials and classroom supplies to teach sustainability classes at Phoenix Crisis Nursery. They also wanted to take the children living at the shelter to the garden in the Spring on a field trip to allow them to help with the planting process and explain the responsibility involved when you nurture life from seed to plant.
We broke ground in October 2011 and planted seeds in November. They students take bimonthly field trips to the garden during their scheduled class time and tend to its needs. Students watched as the months passed, our seeds, slowly grow and were amazed that something they planted actually grew! This past week, March 1st, the students harvested their first crops from the garden. They picked over three pounds of radishes and snap peas, not quite enough to sale but lots to eat! This process has inspired the class to plant their gardens at home and sign up as long term volunteers at Phoenix Crisis Nursery. We have now planted squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, beans, and watermelon that should be ready before May for harvest. We hope to use this harvest for our first produce sale at the Downtown Phoenix Market.