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School gardens coordinator recognized by school district

Posted 6/23/2015

Karyn Johnson (center) receives recognition from the Board of Trustees.

Karyn Johnson (center) receives recognition from the Board of Trustees. Photo Courtesy of Cooperative Extension.

Karyn Johnson, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension school gardens coordinator, and Cooperative Extension were honored and recognized at the Clark County School District’s (CCSD) Board of School Trustee’s meeting. The honor was in recognition and thanks for all the work Johnson and Cooperative Extension has done to support the school garden programs across the district.

Johnson was nominated by Cheryl Wagner, coordinator for the CCSD School-Community Partnership program. The award was presented at the monthly Trustee’s meeting at the Edward Greer Education Center on June 18.

At the awards presentation, Wagner personally thanked Johnson for the programming that supports the school learning gardens. Some of their earliest support was working with a few CCSD schools that had a school garden in place already, such as Gene Ward Elementary School (that has developed into the largest school garden in the valley).

“In the early years of their partnership,” explained Wagner, “Cooperative Extension focused on helping to find funding sources, grants and partners as well as supporting the schools with materials, tools and teaching materials such as lessons.” From the early stages, Cooperative Extension worked diligently to connect their lessons to the Nevada Academic Standards and CCSD curriculum. Their goal was to help teachers connect the outdoor environment to literacy, next Generation Science Standards and additional Nevada academic content standards.

Cooperative Extension also offers professional development courses for teachers focused on using the outdoor environment to teach. They train Master Gardener volunteers and create a connection between the Master Gardeners and some of the schools that support gardens. They provide on-going support and answer hundreds of questions from school garden committees.

“The teachers are encouraged to visit the Demonstration and Test Gardens,” added Wagner, “they are located at their Lifelong learning Center.” The demonstration gardens also offer field experiences for students throughout the year. Johnson, along with the support of her organization and her supervisor, Angela O’Callaghan, social horticulturist, visit more than 25 schools each year, and over the years has assisted hundreds of teachers and schools with their gardens.

Johnson is always willing to provide advice for how to build a garden, what to grow, how to protect the garden from pests and the heat, and how to harvest and use produce grown. She provides expert advice, not only for the edible gardens, but also for desert demonstration and learning gardens. They helped many schools get their initial garden projects off the ground. Now with other community organizations involved in building gardens, Johnson focuses mainly on sustainable support and education. She also runs a Junior Master Garden program which is done both at the Cooperative Extension site and at several schools as an after-school activity. All of the programming offers interactive views of what is necessary in order to grow food in the desert, conserve water, and also native plant and animal adaptations.

This past year, Karyn has presented or hosted 47 schools, with approximately 6,000 students involved. About 60 teachers have participated in the Professional Development Education classes this year and she presented in numerous school-wide staff development sessions.

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