We, Juliana Goldstein and Irene McNaughton spent the summer in the small town of Parras, a beautiful desert oasis located in Northern Mexico in the state of Coahuila. We went there as a group of fourteen students from Cal Poly Humboldt, a small college in Northern California, to study Appropriate Technology (AT) and the Spanish language.
We both study Liberal Studies Elementary Education at Cal Poly Humboldt and have desires to educate the youth about the environment and the importance of taking care of the world we live in. Last year two students from the 2005 Parras group started an organic garden at an asilo, located at a nunnery, that acts as a foster home. The mission of the asilo is to take in young girls and provide them with a positive and healthy environment to learn and grow.
When we first visited the garden we met the girls and the nuns and saw the garden that was started last year. Although the students working on this project last summer worked hard on the garden, we found the garden to be covered in weeds and other hard to identify plants. The soil was also very dry and the garden seemed to have been neglected. Our goals for this project were to replant the garden and teach the girls about various aspects of gardening so that hopefully this situation will not happen again. We discussed topics such as: what plants are, what elements plants need in order to grow, the lifecycles of various plants in the garden, and how to maintain a happy and healthy garden.
In order to get to know the girls, replant the garden, and teach the girls about organic gardening, we created lesson plans with an emphasize in gardening that focus on the lifecycle of a plant. We also made a map of the garden outlining where different plants are located. We gave this to Hermana Carmen along with a breif description of the needs of the plants. Futhermore we helped the girls create a recipe book so that they could see how these fruits, vegetables, and herbs are connected with the daily food that they eat and they can make different dishes with the food they grow in the garden.
Before we began designing our lesson plans and choosing what we were going to plant in the garden, we first had to educate ourselves. We found out what plants are able to grow in a desert climate and what could be planted within the first few weeks we arrived at the garden, what the girls wanted to have in the garden and where to get seeds and possibly organic dirt and/or compost. Luckily we had Kiva Mahoney, our lovely and knowledgeable agriculturist and horticulturist friend, here with us in the program who gave us an insight about what can be grown in the desert and when it can be planted. We used part of a table in her paper titled "Agriculture in Parras de la Fuente Mexico" to get an idea of what we could grow in the garden. We found that we could grow the fruits and vegtables as fallows:
|Bean, pole||May 15-Jul 1|
|Cantaloupe||May 15-Jun 15|
|Corn, sweet||May 25-Jul 1|
|Cucumber||May 15-Jun 15|
|Onion, dry seed||Oct 15-Jan 1 Feb 15-Apr 15|
|Potato, sweet||May 15-20|
|Squash, summer||May 1-Jul 1|
|Squash, winter||May 15-Jul 1|
|Tomato, seed||Mar 1-Apr 1|
|Tomato, plants||May 10-Jun 1|
|Watermelon||May 1-Jun 1|
|Lettuce,head||Jul 1-Aug 1|
|Corn, Mex||June May 25-Jun 15|
|Carrot||May 1-Jul 15|
|Bean, Lima||May 15-Jul 1|
When we asked the girls what they wanted to grow in the garden they mentioned almost all of these plants.
The Girls We Worked With In The Garden[edit | edit source]
The 10 girls that live at the asilo who we worked with ranged between six and twelve years old. During the day, the girls go to school from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm and in the afternoon they attend church located at the asilo. The main caretaker looking after them and doing activities with them in the afternoon, is Hermana Carmen. We went to the asilo two to three times a week for eight weeks and worked with them in the afternoon. Our schedule was Monday, Wednesday, a