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NMSU, LCPS to host school-community garden volunteer day at MacArthur Elementary School

Students, teachers and parents at a Las Cruces elementary school will debut a school-community garden Saturday with the help of New Mexico State University’s College of Education professor Azadeh Osanloo, the Stan Fulton Chair for the Improvement of Border and Rural Schools.

Osanloo is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Administration.

The MacArthur garden volunteer day will be from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at MacArthur Elementary School, 665 4th Street. Volunteers will include parents, family members, students, teachers and administrators, including MacArthur Principal Carla Ragan, along with Home Depot employees, members of NMSU’s Service Learning for Educational Distinction (SLED) program, and NMSU Student Regent Amanda Lopez Askin.

Osanloo said the garden is one of four multifaceted collaborative projects within Las Cruces Public Schools aimed at improving the lives of disenfranchised elementary school students.

The projects will “bring the community and schools together to create areas where students can use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills,” Osanloo said.

Osanloo said the students at MacArthur have been working on garden projects since the fall using their STEM skills, including giving PowerPoint presentations to Osanloo on the garden’s architectural design, which they created. Students also conducted cost and climate analyses of the plants they wanted to buy at Home Depot and measured for garden boxes. The project is wholly student-driven.

“I hope that one of the long term outcomes is that they learn about a healthful lifestyle,” Osanloo said. “They’ll grow vegetables that families can take home with them and cook, and they’ll have better access to fruits and vegetables. They will also gain the knowledge and skills to duplicate gardens elsewhere.”

Another Las Cruces elementary school, Conlee Elementary, will debut its school-community garden project during a volunteer day on April 24. Students at a third school, Valley View Elementary, will unveil accessibility improvements for disabled students at their school-community garden and pond on May 1. And a school-community garden volunteer day at Booker T. Washington Elementary School will take place this summer.

The Stan Fulton Chair was established in 2005 to enhance communication among NMSU faculty, staff and students and pre-kindergarten through 12th grade constituents to improve border and rural schools. The chair works to expand, improve and coordinate existing outreach programs and research activities.

The chair is funded in part by an endowed gift from Stan Fulton, a benefactor to the university and owner of Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino.