Breaking Ground at Pedasí School Garden!

Professor Zaira Samudio de Canto works with students to break ground at the Pedasí school garden, c. Ashley Stonecipher

Ashley Stonecipher, AEP Pedasí School Garden Consultant and Peace Corps Response Volunteer, broke ground with teachers and students to create an organic school garden at the Instituto Plinio A. Moscoso, Pedasí in June 2013. Ashley collaborates with Agriculture Professor, Zaira Samudio de Canto, and 160 students in the 7th, 8th and 9th grade classes on the school garden project. She adapted garden lessons and activities to fit into the current curriculum guidelines for each grade and subject area.

The goals of the garden are to create a model educational garden, to promote a healthy community in sustainable organic agriculture, to teach students about an ecosystem, to integrate the garden into agriculture and other subjects that multiple teachers can use at once, and to provide resources for how to reduce or eliminate chemical use in agriculture on the Azuero through AEP’s Organiculture Program.

Non-traditional flower design for the Pedasí school garden, c. Ashley Stonecipher

The overall design of the garden, a flower shape with beds that will cultivate a diversity of crops, was developed by Professor Zaira Samudio de Canto with inspiration from the Ministry of Agriculture’s demonstration garden at this year’s International Azuero Fair in La Villa de los Santos. Professor Zaira Samudio de Canto wanted to design a non-traditional garden to inspire the creativity of her students and to pique the interest of visitors to the school. In addition to the central beds, the garden includes an area growing the three sister crops (squash, corn, and beans), an area growing cover crops, an area with chickens, and a compost pile. The students are also preparing an area for the germination of future crops.

Each agriculture class is divided into two sections: The first part is a lesson in the classroom teaching the theory behind a sustainable agriculture principle; the second part is a hands-on lesson on school grounds translating theory into practice. For example, Professor Zaira Samudio de Canto presented on organic material and compost with presentations developed by Ashley, and then the students prepared a compost pile with materials they brought to class. Ashley and Professor Zaira Samudio de Canto´s strategy is to incorporate as many materials from the students and the school as they can to increase students´ and their families´ involvement in the project. They also recycle ¨trash¨ items found on school grounds for added sustainability.

The agriculture classes are designed to be hands-on and practical. Here a student makes a compost pile after a lesson on organic materials, c. Ashley Stonecipher

The cumulative result is an organic garden that students will create and maintain during the school year. Ashley says, ¨It has been wonderful to work with Professor Zaira on the school garden project. She is enthusiastic, patient with the students, knowledgeable and open to experimenting and trying new things¨.  Ashley’s future goals include researching new activities to add to the class curriculums, writing up a garden activity manual to pass on to the Pedasí school, for other Peace Corps volunteers in Panama, and for AEP, as well as coordinating a formal garden team at the school.

For more information about Ashley and her project, visit the Collaborators page. For more information about the Organiculture program, visit the Community Outreach page.

Written by Sophie M. Fuchs

Ashley Stonecipher with Professor Zaira Samudio de Canto in the Pedasí school garden, c. Sophie Fuchs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.