Good Things Grow

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The Roosevelt School District is taking the classroom outdoors in the form of a community garden and orchard. Lawrence Robinson, Roosevelt School District governing board member talks about the project.

Richard Ruelas: The Roosevelt School District is taking the classroom outdoors in the form of a community garden and orchard. Lawrence Robinson, a Roosevelt School District governing board member, is here to talk about the project. But first, yesterday, we have to address, you were at a news conference talking about John Huppenthal, tell us briefly what you said.

Lawrence Robinson: Absolutely, John Huppenthal represents all of our public schools throughout the state. And I along with Lisa Graham Kegan, Michael Kelly, Danny Ortega, other education leaders in our state said that we really need to draw the line on his comments that really are bigoted and have no place in terms of the upper echelon of leadership in education in this state. If you're going to talk about Mexican-Americans and other students and the poor in the way that he does, then I think it disqualifies him from really representing their interests in the public school classrooms.

Richard Ruelas: Speaking of public school classrooms, we're talking about growing trees. How nice.

Lawrence Robinson: Growing trees is a much better topic. And actually really a much more productive way to guarantee student success.

Richard Ruelas: Explain that. Explain what planting a tree does to help a student out.

Lawrence Robinson: I saw earlier on your program today you highlighted Dolores Huerta, and she is one of my heroes, and one of the heroes I think of this nation. And it's because she organized folks who often times worked with their hands in the fields and the orchards themselves to give their kids a better life. Of course, you know that was the history of south Phoenix. We used to have orchards lining the streets along Baseline and Southern Road. I remember as a child going along and just smelling the fruit trees along Baseline, and we've lost a lot of that heritage. So what we're trying to do with Good Things Grow is bring that heritage back into the classroom and really outside of the classroom. We're planting orchards at every one of our Roosevelt School District schools and we're also doing it at our Wellness Center, about 10th Street and Baseline. And with those outdoor orchards, we're taking stem education, science, technology, engineering, and math outdoors. So we're letting our kids get their hands dirty and letting their parents get their hands dirty along with them to learn about the concepts they normally only learn about in the classroom.

Richard Ruelas: What kind of things are involved? I mean again, you think of tree goes in ground, hose -- you're trying to add engineering, science, technology?

Lawrence Robinson: Of course. Of course. Photosynthesis, responsibility, what varieties of trees we're planting that grow in the desert that take very little water to sustain. The concepts of nutrition that go along with that, what we feed our bodies feeds our minds. It's really looking at the holistic concepts of learning sustainability -- something that's an advantage in south Phoenix and in Arizona. It's one of those Cs that we always talk about, really giving the kids a different vantage point to learn about science and nutrition.

Richard Ruelas: What is the status of the project now? I know you have it -- It's not in all the schools yet. You're getting ready to plant. You're raising money at Good Things Grow as a nonprofit to try to get this going.

Lawrence Robinson: Yes. Good Things Grow, I think it's ‘.com' or ‘.org.' I'm a bad publicist here, but check both out. Really we've raised a lot of good money from folks who care about the district. McCarthy and Core Construction, Gothic Engineering, and others have really stepped up to the plate to donate, Gary Trujillo from Be A Leader. And they've donated money to do what was phase one. Phase one we put about 90 trees into the ground at the Wellness Center. In an empty lot that was actually -- it was an empty lot housed for traffic and for cars to park in. Now we have 90 trees. It's accessible with paved concrete for anyone in a wheelchair or --

Richard Ruelas: Mature trees? Saplings? What does it look like?

Lawrence Robinson: These are everything from five to 24 gallon trees, and they're growing quite well. They're all adapted to the desert. And we have put in public art. Hugo Medina has helped us with an art project. So we're actually looking at steam. We're adding the A for art into the concept. I've already had teachers approach us about doing outdoor classrooms. We've worked with Kimber Lanning from Local First, and she's going to be coordinating with local farms. So we're looking at ways to get kids interested in eating right but also learning about math and science.

Richard Ruelas: And meeting outside not during the summer, of course, and learning a bit about history of Phoenix, where food comes from, boy, this sounds like a good project.

Lawrence Robinson: We're enjoying it.

Richard Ruelas: We really appreciate you joining us tonight to talk about it.

Lawrence Robinson: Thank you very much.

Richard Ruelas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and Channel Eight. I'm Richard Ruelas. Have a great night.

Lawrence Robinson:Governing Board Member, Roosevelt School District;

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