Unlike in many other parts of the world, the school year in Nicaragua begins in January (not August or September). 2019 marks the start of SosteNica's fifth year promoting school gardens in rural elementary schools around the city of Nagarote. In the past, our staff has directed the school gardens with the approval of the Ministry of Education and the individual school teachers. The school officials teach the standard subjects such as math, Spanish, science and geography (to name a few) while SosteNica has been responsible for teaching topics that relate to garden bed preparation, soil fertility, seed germination, pest management, irrigation and nutrition. This year will be different. During the first week of January, 2019 faculty from six elementary schools gathered for two days of training at SosteNica's EcoCentro in Nagarote. During several days of intense collaboration, teachers and SosteNica staff worked together to find areas of overlap, working lessons from the garden into the complete curriculum.
During the multi-day training session teacher Luisa from the Betania School observed: "Elementary school teachers have been prepared to impart the basic curriculum. But most of us know little about bio-intensive gardening. We've never been taught to double dig a bed, or to prepare compost. This year we are being trained by the SosteNica agronomy team so that we can reinforce the lessons that our students are learning." During the same training session teacher Kenya from the Silvio Mayorga school shared: "Think about native and non-native plants. These are perfect topics for teaching geography. From which part of the world do these plants originate?" Similarly teacher Asalia from San Antonio Elementary remarked: "We can integrate common and scientific names of plants as a way to teach both Spanish and science. When working with spices we can engage students at multiple levels: geography, math, language and nutrition." Teacher Hervin from the Candelaria Elementary expressed enthusiasm about learning and then imparting information about making organic insect repellants and how to create bio-fermented foliar fertilizers. "These are practical skills and valuable life lessons that will serve the children throughout their lives, in addition to being great ways to teach theoretical topics."
Together, the SosteNica staff and the school teachers worked hard to craft an agreed upon curriculum that will enrich this year's school garden program. SosteNica is very grateful to all of you who have donated to make this program possible. Recurring gifts are especially useful because they allow us to plan for the future. The more funds we have donated, the more schools and school children can be integrated into the program.