More than 50 students, 12 school clubs, and other community members helped put together a new natural habitat garden at Desert Vista High School last weekend.

The garden features about 140 native plants, trees like Mesquites, Palo Verdes, Paper Bark Acacias and Desert Willows line several walkways in addition to numerous bushes and shrubbery. Occupying the courtyard between the school’s gymnasium and cafeteria, the garden also has benches designed with mosaic tiles from a Desert Vista alum.

“The overall goal is to provide an outdoor classroom for the students to learn in, and to have an outdoor, visual space to utilize and enhance class curriculum,” said Susan Norton, who organized the garden project.

Funded by the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Heritage Grants, Norton also started a garden at Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary School about five years ago, which prompted a similar project at Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary School, and another at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School.

“I wanted to see one in every school,” said Norton, who became passionate about environmental education after having her three children, one of whom is a junior at Desert Vista.

“I wanted to marry the two together in a way,” Norton said of her kids and educating them about nature. “A lot of the kids don’t have very much outdoor activity, I want this to be a place that they can enjoy.”

The students at Desert Vista certainly showed their passion as well.

Clubs like Thunder Media, dance, yoga, orchestra and several others helped plant the various plants and sponsored the benches decorated with the mosaic tiles.

“They came ready to work and ready to get the job done, it was rewarding,” Norton said.

Still to come, the garden project will also hang ceramic bird feeders from the ceramics department as well as possible solar panels and a metal arbor from technology teacher Dan Zavaleta.

The arbor, similar to a gazebo, will be used for additional shade intersecting the walkways and to grow vines.

One quality about the desert Norton especially admires is its resilience, mentioning that it’s a quality that applies to our own lives.

“It’s really such a hostile environment, but it has learned to adapt to its surroundings,” she added. “It might inspire students to protect and take care of the desert.”


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