Thanks to Gladden Farms Elementary School (GFE) students, community members of Gladden Farms can enjoy fresh produce year-round. Located on school grounds, the Gladden Farms Peace Garden is home to a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, flowers and trees. Currently growing are carrots, lettuce, radish and bright towering sunflowers, to the students’ excitement.
GFE’s Garden Club, with help teacher and garden enthusiast Andrea Atkins, spends the most time maintaining the garden. Though the club takes home most of the produce grown, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who benefit from it. Students of all grades learn from the Peace Garden.
In class, students develop a passion for gardening through lessons about healthy lifestyles and eating. The garden was created to be built into physical education curriculum, but eventually became part of lessons in many other subjects.
In science, students learn about the life cycle of plants and sometimes even get to take their seedlings home to nurture their growth. The garden has also allowed students to learn about the life cycle of butterflies in their science classes. Many a butterfly has been raised by students at the Peace Garden.
Students also learn observational skills beyond science and health, indulging their curiosity about the natural world.
“We also wanted to create a natural oasis within the garden,” Atkins said. “An extra learning place that has a calming effect on students.”
Students definitely find the garden to be a tranquil place to relax in the fresh air outside instead of the classroom environment. Fundraising efforts from the Marana and Gladden Farms community allowed for the installation of benches.
Though located on the school grounds, it was the work of a community to create the garden. Sponsor Tucson Clean & Beautiful donated trees and taught students how to plant and take care of them. The Town of Marana Parks and Recreation helped dig holes to put in posts, and Marana Heritage Farms also helped dig holes to plant trees. Staff and students, with help from the community, even created trenches and installed an irrigation system for the garden.
Future goals for the Peace Garden program include:
- Build a seated space for class circle time.
- Plant a centerpiece “peace tree” at the center of the garden.
- Work with nearby Marana Heritage Farms to coordinate plots in their garden for student use.
GFE’s school culture empowers students to build trust and take risks while celebrating kindness, collaborative learning and community engagement. As the heart of the Gladden Farms community, GFE is also where young families and their children make connections and form lasting friendships.