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Tue, Sept. 22

PUSD offers virtual gardening lessons, food demos during school closings

Prescott Unified School District Lincoln Elementary Garden Champion Sommer Dunn; Farm-to-School VISTA Coordinator Paul Rizik and Yavapai County Community Health Services Health Educator Suzie Delgado doing preparatory and maintenance care in the Lincoln Elementary Garden. In caring for district school gardens, the teams are following proper social distancing protocols. Garden clubs are now virtual through Google Classroom. The teams will continue offering weekly gardening videos and food demonstrations on the district’s Facebook and YouTube channel. (Courtesy)

Prescott Unified School District Lincoln Elementary Garden Champion Sommer Dunn; Farm-to-School VISTA Coordinator Paul Rizik and Yavapai County Community Health Services Health Educator Suzie Delgado doing preparatory and maintenance care in the Lincoln Elementary Garden. In caring for district school gardens, the teams are following proper social distancing protocols. Garden clubs are now virtual through Google Classroom. The teams will continue offering weekly gardening videos and food demonstrations on the district’s Facebook and YouTube channel. (Courtesy)

It’s spring – time for a garden!

Don’t let COVID-19 coronavirus dissuade you from getting your hands dirty in the fresh air!

If you need a few tips, Prescott Unified School District has some star virtual gardeners at the ready.

The Farm-to-School VISTA Coordinator Paul Rizik, along with Yavapai County Community Health Services Health Educator Suzie Delgado and Lincoln Elementary Library Specialist Sommer Dunn, are committed to maintaining the garden projects and clubs started prior to the spring school closings. Through virtual gardening, this crew of experts is not only maintaining actual gardens – social distancing rules apply – but encouraging students and their families to create their own gardens at home. The team has created videos and shared tips on how to plant a garden from seed, offered food demonstrations and offered tips on how to make such things as fresh yogurt and kale smoothies. Complete with recipes. Garden clubs are continuing through the use of Google Classrooms.

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Paul Rizik waters and cares for garden at Lincoln Elementary. Prescott High and Taylor Hicks also have gardens with community and some college students helping maintain those garden spaces. (Courtesy)

Rizik admits this is a new, and unusual, endeavor but one that has been embraced by students and their families.

“So obviously, the school closures have caused us to have to retool most of our projects, but we’re making it work,” Rizik said. “A lot of our energy now is being put toward preparing the gardens for when students will be able to make it back to school, and coming up with recipes and activities to help families pass the time while still staying keyed into gardening and healthy eating.”

Through his team that includes faculty “gardening champions” and some community partners, Rizik said they have been able to post videos on the district Facebook page and YouTube channel “to help fill the gap that exists with the (school) gardens being inaccessible.”

“Despite everything, Farm to School initiatives are moving forward and I’m so grateful for the support from not only the district but from our volunteers as we slowly figure out the best path forward during these trying times,” Rizik said.

Dunn and Delgado agree.

“The (virtual) program is in its infancy, but we are excited to get the broader community involved in gardening and nutrition, especially where it intersects with Prescott’s unique biome and growing requirements,” Dunn said.

She is proud that the team has rallied to overcome some of the immediate challenges so as to “keep growing food and sharing the fun and knowledge in one way or another.”

“We educators miss the students so much right now, but a silver lining might be that we are all being educated now together as a community,” Dunn said of the videos available for the entire community to view.

Dunn said she is also grateful that the gardening clubs have gone virtual “and we can all give-and-take our expertise and experiences via our online outlets.”

“And what an enjoyable and productive hobby food growing can be for us all during this time,” she said.

For Delgado, the once-a-week videos are a great way to encourage even students who were not involved in the gardening programs prior to the closing to see how much enjoyment can be had with such a project.

The garden cycle is also symbolic to children enduring a new “season” in their lives.

“Things will get back to normal, and we’ll be better for it,” Delgado said.

She then the late actress Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

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