VVES students have a green thumb at summer school



VVES students were enchanted by the summer garden which was central to their learning. Lupe Guzman, kindergarten teacher at VVES, teaches students to identify plants by their leaves. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE WEST.

The garden is in full bloom at Virgin Valley Elementary School as the 2022 Summer Accelerator Program comes to an end. The teacher, Lupe Guzman, worked with 24 children, who had just finished kindergarten, during 2 weeks of summer learning focused on food culture.

The Clark County School District provided “free summer learning opportunities to accelerate the academic, social-emotional, and behavioral development of all students.” The Summer Acceleration was offered to students in pre-kindergarten to grade 12 from May 31 to June 17, 2022.

Each teacher who participated developed their own curriculum. Lupe Guzman had been working on her garden with her kindergartners throughout the school year, so it seemed natural to continue the same lessons through the summer.

“We just continued where we left off,” Guzman said. “First we did a little review to make sure no skills were lost. Then we started to focus on higher-order thinking. We did a lot of STEM (Science , technology, engineering and mathematics).

Guzman discovered that many areas of study can be covered in gardening lessons. “You can calculate how much soil you need to fill a planter or how many seeds you need for each row,” she said. “You can get into the science of soil health as well as the benefits of healthy eating. You can study worms and insects that are beneficial or harmful to plants. There are literally so many directions you can follow with this device.

Guzman loved how the garden provided hands-on experiences for the kids. She had the students document the changes they saw in the garden day to day, worked on identifying plants and expanding vocabulary using gardening terms.

After the children spent time in the garden, they returned to class and participated in writing activities to record their discoveries and observations. “I got some of the most beautiful drawings from the kids,” Guzman said.

Students were to write down their observations, include an illustration, and then present their report to the class. “One day these little kids will have to speak (in front of others), so this is also a great opportunity to work on their public speaking skills,” Guzman added.

The VVES garden has long been a labor of love. “We planted fruits and vegetables during the year with Ms. Silvagio’s and Ms. Durbin’s class,” Guzman said. “We planted radishes, tomatoes, strawberries, fig trees, pomegranate trees, peach trees, almond trees, zucchini, beets, red and yellow sunflowers, watermelon, lettuce and pumpkins.”

This garden has been part of Guzman’s program for six years. “Not much was ready to harvest when the students were there,” she said. “But they were able to eat strawberries and they loved it!”

Parent Michelle West said she liked the emphasis on STEM learning in the program. “The students had a great time and realized that the learning process can be fun,” West said. “The hands-on approach is something they will always remember.”
“Ms. Guzman’s passion comes through when she takes her students out into the garden,” West added.

A recent kindergarten graduate, Samantha West was excited to continue learning. Of her experience, Samantha reports, “I loved seeing the strawberries and where they grow. I loved walnut because I didn’t know walnuts grew on trees.
This was news for more than one student.

“My favorite part of the garden was the red sunflowers,” said young participant Sage Johnson. “It was the first time I had seen a red sunflower. There was also a little pumpkin that I loved.

Samantha’s mother, Liz Johnson, said her children beg to go to summer school every day. “Sage was so sad when summer school ended,” Johnson said. “They enjoyed every minute.”
As the old saying goes, “Gardening is believing in tomorrow”.

Ms. Guzman assured her class that as soon as the watermelons are ripe, she will round up all the students who have helped in the garden to make sure they taste the literal fruits of their labor.

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