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Healing gardens in Las Vegas

A new elementary school opens every month in Las Vegas, with pupils from many cultural and economic backgrounds. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension school gardens, community gardens and healing gardens essentially become outdoor classrooms and also build community spirit.

Issue:

Using horticulture to develop a community spirit is new to southern Nevada. A new elementary school opens every month in Las Vegas, with pupils from many cultural and economic backgrounds. Many of these students have little, if any, interaction with nature. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension school gardens essentially become outdoor classrooms that are an important alternative teaching tool for many schools and in prisons. Community gardens are a model for community development, which provide opportunities for physical activity as well as and nutritional improvement.

Healing gardens are located at health facilities, such as nursing homes, hospitals and hospices. They are used by patients, families and staff as a respite place, not for production. However, gardening in southern Nevada can be difficult due to low water supplies, poor soils and temperature extremes.

What Has Been Done:

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) has been involved in the development of a number of community gardens in southern Nevada, all at different stages of development. Several developing communities are incorporating gardens as part of their environment. The Blankenship garden is maintained by its gardeners, a UNCE Master Gardener and the Doolittle Senior Center. Acacia Park has a strong horticulture education component, and the Robert Gordon Annex (a senior housing development) is building a community garden with individual gardens for residents. A new educational park is being established at Oliver Ranch, with Master Gardeners’ participation. Apache Pines, a family housing development, uses the Junior Master Gardener curriculum.

New health care facilities are including healing gardens as part of their plans. The St. Rose Hospital healing garden has been in existence for more than three years. Nathan Adelson Hospice is planning a healing garden, and Master Gardeners are involved in its development.

To reach school children, the Food for Thoughts program was established in southern Nevada to teach school faculty, staff and students to effectively install and use gardens as outdoor classrooms. The gardens offer children an alternative site for learning, promote awareness of the desert environment and encourage healthy eating and activities. Since 2004, the program has worked hands-on with 50 schools in their educational gardening efforts, providing information to nearly 11,000 students.

Impact:

In 2005, Food for Thoughts staff and volunteers, including nine Master Gardeners, taught 2,854 school staff both directly and in collaboration with other groups. The program reached 9,513 students in 50 schools. Clark County Professional Development Education used "Food, Land & People!" as a base curriculum to train educators, who said they will use the curriculum. In addition, Junior Master Gardeners said they would also use the program. Anecdotal evidence of the value of a healing garden came from one surgical patient at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, who said, "Spending time in the healing garden was a period of peace in the middle of a very stressful experience."

Partners:

Private Entities, Clark County School District

Contact: Angela O`Callaghan, Social Horticulture Specialist, 702-397-2604

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