Albuquerque Academy teaches our community about water conservation, biodiversity, soil improvement, and food production through the creation of gardens. In the past four years students have replaced high water use turf grass by a vegetable garden, a xeriscape wildlife garden, a Japanese xeriscape garden, and a solar-powered xeriscape garden. The seventh grade vegetable garden provides an outdoor gardening learning experience while providing some vegetables for the Albuquerque Academy Dining Hall. The seventh grade xeriscape wildlife garden is a sanctuary for wildlife such as birds, insects and small animals and has increased the biodiversity of our campus, a recent tally revealed over 120 species of plants. The eighth grade Japanese garden is a low water use garden inspired by the Japanese internment camp, Manzanar which attempted to create beauty in a time of overwhelming grief. The senior solar-powered xeriscape garden is the first of many gardens that will employ the entire student body in transforming our soil and water use. With the help of community experts, students are designing and creating a new garden, the Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden. The Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden will be a combination of a traditional Native American Xeriscape and a Hispanic Medicinal garden. Replacing high water use Kentucky Blue Grass with low water use xeriscape and native plants, the Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden will provide a platform for the Albuquerque Academy community to be educated about Native American and Hispanic culture with the increase of knowledge in sustainable botany, environmentally friendly gardening and the gaining of knowledge through experience.
The city of Albuquerque only gets 4.96 gallons of water per square foot each year. Kentucky bluegrass needs 18 gallons of water per square foot each year to keep it lush and green, which is 3.6 times the average rainfall. This high water-usage grass Albuquerque Academy uses that grass. We have it on playing fields, but also in a lot of places where it isn’t necessary. This school put it in when nobody knew water was an issue, and we thought we had an ocean underneath us. Now that we know our water is finite, we need to adapt our water use to our natural climate. This project would save 13.04 gallons of water per square foot each year. Saving this valuable resource will help our school and the whole of Albuquerque, as Albuquerque Academy is the seventh highest water users in Albuquerque.
Albuquerque Academy has many gardens all around the campus set up, ongoing, or in the progress of being built. We thought with all the collective experience of the garden builders we would be able to make a successful garden. We would be able to replace the Kentucky bluegrass with a Xeriscape garden and cut down on our water consumption.
The Albuquerque Academy Cultural Garden will develop through research, planning, and doing. In research, we will consult experts; refer to books and online sources. The experts include our local city botanical garden, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Native American Cultural Center, and the Albuquerque Academy Native American and Hispanic Parent and Student communities. We will consult the Grounds and Administration to locate an appropriate size and site on campus and to develop a budget. We will design and select materials such as plants and groundcover. We will purchase a cistern to collect rainwater and develop an irrigation system to water the plants. To begin work, we will organize students through the Community Service program to begin constructing the garden. When the plantings are completed, we will create signage to help identify the plants and educate the public. We hope to use this garden in culture and language classes as a tool for learning cultural and sustainable practices. We will communicate about our garden through our website and through our youth conference that we will be holding with invited students from New Mexico.
The school will provide the location, the consultation, and support with irrigation, budget, and general knowlege. The teachers will provide guidance and help to organize the students.
The student will design, consult, build the garden, and educate their community. The students will also maintain the garden throughout the construction as well as the subsequent years.
The conversion of high water use landscape to low water use educational gardens has been underway for 10 years. It first began with the environmental club sponsor, Ms. Beamish and her environmental science students converting a small triangle of grass into a xeric garden that attracted butterflies and hummingbirds as well as the attention of many people passing on their way to class. Each year she and her students pulled out more grass for gardens. Six years later, the 7th grade teachers and their students began a vegetable garden which has been growing vegetables for their harvest festival as well as the dining hall for the last 4 years. At about the same time the 7th grade students began a wildlife garden and have been removing a new patch of turf each year and transforming it into an area with over 100 species of plants. This year during the first week of school 150 seniors converted a huge area of turf into a low water use garden while also improving the soil. Ms. Spidell and her 8th grade students are currently working on an area behind the library to create a Japanese garden. The school has supported these efforts by providing the expertise of grounds crew and some of the financial support. Students have worked on grants to provide additional funding. The school recently adopted new policies that provide time during the day and after school to allow students to work to help create and maintain the gardens. Each year we are trying to expand our student support and involvement through classes, extracurricular activities and service learning opportunities.
The entire student population is now involved with the garden projects through a new school program that requires students to perform on-campus service. In addition students are involved through classes and extracurricular activities like the garden club and the environmental club. Parents have been involved by providing expertise as well as labor. Even the school administrators came out to help the seniors with their garden. Ms. Spidell is working with the Japanese community in Albuquerque as well as the Albuquerque Academy Japanese Language students. They have been organizing an opening ceremony of the garden upon its completion. The new garden that we propose to create is intended to involve the Hispanic and Native American students and teachers on campus. Later in the year the senior environmental club students plan on hosting a Youth Conference on the Environment and the theme will be sustainable food. We hope to use our gardens as a tool to educate the students attending this conference.