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Ms. Muhammad's Garden classroom curriculum

The Story of Ms. Muhammad's Garden classroom
curriculum/programming began in the Fall of 2014
at Brunson-Lee Elementary School

This included the community and the Balsz Promise Neighborhood Youth Advisory Council who all lent their hands to till the soil for the garden to be planted.

It takes many helping hands for any community program to be successful and to be sustained...

There was a teacher and community discussion led by Stella Pope Duarte, Arizona's nationally honored writer, to begin to document this community's and school's endeavors...A mural was created by Michael Butzine to synopsis this interview visually...

Ms. Muhammad's students completed the mural with ribbons and attached water color pictures with written reflections down one side of the canvas.

Who Says an Ant Can't?

Stella Pope Duarte

Two children, a boy and girl, crouch on the ground one warm spring day. They're second-graders from one of the classrooms at Brunson-Lee Elementary School on the east side of Phoenix, part of the Balsz School District. It's their day to work in the garden. The children have garden tasks to do: weeding, adding composite to the soil, digging in with spades to rid the terrain of debris and grass, watering and checking the growth of vegetables and long tangled strings of strawberries.

But the two children, who crouch close to the ground, are staring at a red ant making its way through the uneven garden terrain at a painstakingly slow speed. Dark-haired and with a rugged athletic build, David has an eye for noticing details. He decides to lie on his stomach on the dusty ground to take a closer look. He's thinking of becoming a scientist someday and wants to make observations of the tiny creature as it struggles to balance a fragment of a strawberry on its microscopic back. Every crease and dip in the soil is a challenge; every miniscule dirt clod is one more obstacle. At one point the strawberry falls off and the tiny red ant has to start all over again, lifting it up and hoisting it once again on its back.

"How long will it take the ant to get home? Asks Tamika, crouching on her knees next to David. Tamika's hair is arranged in braids, cornrows, each braid tied off with a tiny blue ribbon. When she talks she moves her head gently and the ribbons bounce up and down.

"Oh, look, says David, rising from the ground, the ant's turned a corner, around that row of carrots. It won't be long now; the nest is at the end of the row of carrots by the fence."

"That's still a long way for an ant to go," says Tamika, shaking her blue ribbons in disbelief. They both laugh to see the tiny creature, reappear around the green tops of newly planted carrots; she's still on her way. The story continues setting the backdrop for the canvas...


Lori Robinson, Balsz School District Liaison Community Coordinator, approached the Balsz Community Education Foundation to secure a grant for the children from Ms. Muhammad's class to visit the Phoenix Botanical Garden, purchase the book Alexandro's' Gift and a basic water color palate for each child in her classroom as well as additional brushes and water color paper. Following the classroom reading and discussion of Alejandro's gift the class went to the Phoenix Botanical Garden...

Judy Butzine, MSW, Director of the BPN YAC (contracted by Valley of the Sun United Way), created a curriculum many years ago to provide some structure for this total process...

Judy not only went on the classroom garden tour, but came to Ms. Muhammad's classroom to review the SEEING LESSON IN NATURE curriculum and to facilitate the water color art making activity for all of these second graders.

Working with a whole child concept in human development (physical, emotional, intellectually and spiritually) this lesson plan considers the system's theory approach focusing on interdisciplinary learning elements in the SEEING LESSON IN NATURE...

The Life cycle is a wonderful example of the interconnected system described in Alejandro's Gift...

The water color, art making activity is explained like the illustrations in the children's book each student received...

In this particular process the students were taught about first applying the background, then the foreground and for special detail to create a sketch in color pencil or markers and overlay, glued onto ones water colored painting...

Ms. Muhammad said the room was so quiet during this creative activity...YES! Always!

The students will continue to embellish their artworks as explained already. Some will be copied along with their photos and adhered to the large canvas.

Student reflective writings have already been instructed with pencil drawings added considering wonderful natural elements from the garden they chose to depict.

This whole lesson unit with all of its material artifacts will be on display at the Brunson-Lee Wellness Celebration sponsored by the Balsz Promise Neighborhood Youth Advisory Council, April 18th at Brunson-Lee. It will then travel to the local Saguaro Library for display during the Earth Day 2015 Events.

Everyone who has participated and funded this program will feel a great sense of pride for the opportunities provided these children, enhancing their learning experiences by being out in the community; reflecting upon all they have learned; artistically conveying the SEEING LESSON and working in their school garden!

The children's artworks and written reflections were then on display in an exhibition at Saguaro Library for four weeks during the April 2015 Earth Day Celebration along with the book Alejandro's gift and literature written by Stella Pope Duarte.

Ms. Muhammad's then took the class on a field trip to SEE all of the children's stories and artworks displayed at the library for many to view and enjoy!

This was a community collaborative provided through the Balsz Elementary School District and funding from the Balsz Community Education Foundation.

Photo Narrative by judy butzine, MSW, Director of the Cultural Arts Coalition