Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.A. – In a quiet, rural area 25 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona lies a school unlike any other. The STAR School – the name means Service to All Relations – is a K-8 charter school, incorporating sustainable living, technology and Navajo traditions into their day-to-day curriculum.
STAR School Indigenous Culinary Instructor Pauline Butler said they try to make sure a big STEM component is present in all the learning at the school by teaching students how to plant, grow, and maintain crops.
Students take field trips to local farms and spend time learning about the crops they grow, such as corn, squash, and beans, and other greens and veggies that local farmers grow.
“We developed a program called Farm to School gardening where we would clean and prepare the crops and take them over to the kitchen to be prepared and set out for the students to eat,” Butler said.
The school serves students who live in the Southwest corner of the Navajo Nation and the surrounding area and provides students a free education thanks to public funding, grants and private subsidies.
In addition to serving the students at the school, the STAR School also hosts workshops about food sovereignty, Navajo traditions and sustainable living, especially in Navajo communities.
The school promotes alternative-building methods, energy sources, and resilience.
“I recommend this school to others because of how involved the school is in our Native community and how it teaches students our language and culture,” former student Bahozhoni Tso said.
Aquaponics, a sustainable way to grow plants using fish and recirculated water, is one of the processes of growing crops students learn. The STAR School uses both aquaponics and traditional cold frames to grow food.
This curriculum was made to prepare students with the right skills and knowledge to bring back to their reservations, to enter STEM fields and to learn about Navajo culture from a horticultural perspective.
Katrina Machetta is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.