As public schools across Tucson are closed through April 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Arizona Community and School Garden Program, or CSGP, is working with the Tucson Unified School District , or TUSD, to provide produce and instructional content to the TUSD community and beyond.
CSGP, which is housed in the School of Geography and Development in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, places university student-interns in low-income school and community sites where they support the installation, development, and maintenance of garden programs.
Because the University of Arizona has moved to remote learning, most student-interns are no longer going to their school placement sites; however, there are a handful of students supporting the community in small groups, following CDC social distancing guidelines. And students working remotely are developing school garden activities and curriculum to support K-12 teachers as they move to online instruction.
The Community and School Garden Program is helping distribute, free of charge, fresh produce from Manzo Elementary, Tucson High Magnet School, Mansfeld Middle School, and other SBS/CSGP intern-supported gardens to TUSD families whose kids are in Title I schools .
“We feel like the ground is shifting beneath our feet but school gardens have a special way of bringing people together,” said Moses Thompson, CSGP associate director and UArizona/TUSD liaison. “It’s inspiring to see folks from TUSD and the university mobilize to keep gardens afloat and make sure school garden produce safely makes its way to those who need it most.”
Program coordinators in the Community and School Garden Program are hard at work putting together lessons and videos for TUSD students during the shutdown. Jessie Rack, coordinator of the Supporting Environmental Education and Communities program, which is part of CSGP, currently has two videos for home learning: “Science Will Save the World! How to Make a Homemade Magnifying Glass” and “Who Pooped in the Garden? Worm Science with Jessie Rack.” She plans to produce one video a week – on topics from at-home science experiments to outdoor learning and natural history – for as long as necessary.
“As an outreach educator, my job in more stable times is to support TUSD teachers by providing science enrichment,” Jessie says. “By providing comparable educational opportunities in an online format, I hope not only to support teachers, but to support parents nationwide who are suddenly thrust into the role of at-home educators. With these videos, I hope to show that science can be fun for everyone, it is for everyone, and, as I truly believe, it really will save the world.”