Matt Kelly Elementary School
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Matt Kelly Principal, Alaina Criner shared these words when describing the special ability Ms. Donelson has to bring the community together.
On any given day at Matt Kelly Elementary School, you are likely to see Ms. Tamyra Donelson, a Kindergarten teacher, roaming the halls while pulling a red wagon filled with fruits and vegetables freshly harvested from the school garden, handing them out to students. She wants to encourage students to take the produce home and cook healthy meals with their families. One student proudly reported how she used the produce to cook a stew at home with her parents. Ms. Donelson, who has always been into gardening, began teaching at Matt Kelly two years ago after participating in Teach for America following college in Illinois. When asked how our Healthy School Healthy Life programs have affected her school she spoke of a major impact where students are truly excited to be out in the garden picking lettuce that they helped plant, or just holding rollie pollies and getting to be outside. She enjoys introducing other staff members to Create A Change Now’s nutrition lessons, and sharing the weekly newsletters with activities and recipes. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and she plans to form a school health committee with staff, students and families to prioritize health and wellness on campus, and to organize a harvest festival next year. As a ReInvent School, Matt Kelly Elementary partners with the city of Las Vegas in collaboration with local businesses and non-profit organizations. ReInvent Schools focus on aligning academic achievement, expanded learning, integrated student supports and family and community engagement. By embracing the Healthy School Healthy Life programs, Ms. Donelson is ensuring that the community school model will be a true success at Matt Kelly.
Robert Lunt Elementary School
There is a classroom at Robert Lunt Elementary School that is located right next to their thriving school garden. The room houses the garden prep class called Garden University and is stocked to the brim with garden related books, charts, bulletin boards, tools, and so much more. In charge of all this is Janet Barraza, who has been teaching for 27 years. On first meeting her though, her boundless energy and youthful enthusiasm would lead you to believe that she was at the beginning of her career. After five minutes of chatting with Jan about her latest projects and activities, I had a notebook full of ideas to share with our schools. Adding to the success of Garden University, is the undying support of Principal Thelma Davis, who has been an advocate for health and wellness since day one. Principal Davis has created a school culture where fruits and vegetables are embraced and teachers are given the flexibility to incorporate the garden into their classrooms. By making garden time a prep class, students get to spend one hour every six days with Mrs. Barraza, and classes are rotated so the entire school is regularly exposed to the garden and the extension activities around it. This is the third year that Robert Lunt has been implementing the Healthy School Healthy Life programs, and Mrs. Barraza has seen an impact on the students and their families. She reflects that she is starting to see a change in attitudes and behaviors. Students now have a sense of ownership towards the garden. They are sharing what they learn with their other teachers and using research time to study such subjects as composting, recipes, and pest control. Students at Lunt are encouraged to problem solve, so when an aphid and rabbit infestation occurred in the garden this year, they were tasked with finding solutions. They designed rabbit- proof fencing and studied natural pest control methods such as companion planting. Jan has noticed an increased willingness to try produce from the garden and her classes create tasting plates of freshly harvested produce to share with other classes. Students love tasting new foods, and are encouraging their parents to cook with them at home. Her classes have written recipe books using ingredients from the garden that they have sold at their school farmers markets. Students are realizing that they can grow their own vegetables at home, and that they don’t need a lot of space to do it. Parents are taking notice and are asking to form a garden club next year. When asked what message she wants to ingrain in her students, Mrs. Barraza said, “I want them to get curious about the world around them”. It was clear as we watched the students out in the garden, proudly and joyfully going from plant to plant, exclaiming how big the pumpkin was getting and how red the strawberries were, that her wish had already come true.
Keith and Karen Hayes Elementary School
Where there was once an open field at Keith and Karen Hayes Elementary School, now lie four large garden beds, all thanks to second grade teacher, Jennifer Terrana, who applied for the Create A Change Now programs after hearing about the organization from a colleague at another school. Ms. Terrana, who truly values health and wellness in her personal life as well, has seen an awareness grow throughout the school. She understands how students are influenced by watching their teachers living healthier lifestyles. For example, she has noticed that Hayes teachers are enjoying healthier lunches in the staff break room, and classroom parties have taken to serving vegetables and hummus instead of pizza and less nutritious options. For a garden and nutrition program to thrive and continue, it is necessary to have dedicated teachers on board. Jennifer Terrana fits that description and is always encouraging students as well as colleagues to get involved. She is making a difference at Hayes by coordinating weekly garden visits with farmer Jennifer Mujica, who, through hands-on learning, educates students on growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables, as well as the nutritional benefits of a healthy diet. Ms. Terrana also organizes the distribution of thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables that Three Square delivers to the students each month. She is an integral part of the Chefs in School program by coordinating healthy cooking demonstrations with Krayvings restaurant, and played a key role in hosting a Family Fitness Night with the Desert Reign foundation, where students and their families enjoyed an evening of fitness-focused games and activities. We thank and honor Ms. Terrana and all teachers who remain so dedicated to helping our children grow up strong, healthy and happy.