Gardening has always been good for the soul, and a project named after a late Las Vegan is blossoming at Jack Dailey Elementary School on Reno Avenue between Tropicana and Hacienda avenues. A Title 1, At-Risk School, the Jack Dailey garden was kicked off about three years ago thanks to donations provided by several long-time Las Vegans.
Named after a long-time Las Vegan who died in a flash flood 43 years ago at Nelson’s Landing along the Colorado River south of Boulder City, the garden has flourished thanks to dedicated efforts of Dailey’s daughter, Julie Dailey Neil; former six-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan police and current real estate executive Kevin Buckley along with local businessman Jelindo Tiberti of Red Star Fence Company.
Interestingly, Dailey Neil is a 1974 graduate of Valley High School, while Buckley graduated from Bishop Gorman in 1972. When Dailey Neil heard about the need for a garden at Dailey Elementary, she immediately opened a network with Buckley to find the funds and the deals to make the garden become reality.
Before anyone had time to think about the proposed project, Tiberti heard from Buckley and turned the duo into a trio as a simple 90 by 40-foot garden became a dream-come-true that even the pilots flying in or out of McCarran Airport can see from the cockpit.
In what has proven to be a true example of the giving hearts of long-time Las Vegans, the garden has grown to a colorful attraction while also working as a perfect learning tool for the students of the school where the students are reaping the benefits of working in a garden.
Or as Buckley put it, “My father once said that if everyone did a little, a lot would get done.”
School teachers and others involved initially with Dailey Elementary sought and received a grant from the Rotary Club of Las Vegas West.
The school was awarded the $10,000 grant over several other competing schools.
But wait. So much else has taken place in the past few years, too. Among the bills which were approved by the committee of the Nevada legislature was Senate Bill 167 which creates a grand program for gardens in schools.
Additionally, since March of 2013, Green Our Planet has jumped on board and has built 110 outdoor classrooms in the Clark County School District, so the Jack Dailey Garden spurred a huge level of positive vibes.
Also, Green Our Planet collaborated with CCSD teachers to create an 800-page curriculum that is used to teach STEAM outside in gardens for Pre-K through fifth grade to facilitate experimental learning. In fact, Green Our Planet now works with more than 3,000 teachers and impacts 75,000 students – 78 percent of whom are in low-income schools.
Green Our Planet is the largest school garden program in the Western United States and one of the fastest growing in the country.
Ciara Byrne, the co-CEO of Green Our Planet, said the program has expanded big-time in Southern Nevada.
“Our first garden was in Henderson,” said Byrne, a native of Dublin, Ireland, who founded the company with Kim MacQuarrie, a native Las Vegan who went to Robert E. Lake Elementary before graduating from Valley High School and USC. “We set up Green Our Planet in March of 2013. We are very passionate about education and conservation. School districts are now staying away from the books and giving the students hands-on projects. There is a huge push to get students involved in science and technology. We developed the curriculum with a grant from American Honda Foundation.
“Instead of using a chalkboard, the students get involved first-hand. It makes sense in the real world. They run the farmer’s market and use the money they earn for what means the most to them. That could be hummingbird feeders, or whatever makes the most sense. It’s those kinds of lessons that last forever in a student’s mind.”
Garden Farms of Nevada, which has been in Southern Nevada for about seven years, has built the gardens for more than 100 public and private schools. Its general manager, Tiffany Whisenant, has been with the company for the past five years.
“A garden opens up their view of what good food is,” said Whisenant, a 2002 graduate of Basic High School along with College of Southern Nevada. “Students are given the opportunity to take care of the gardens, get their hands dirty and breath the fresh air of the garden. It all starts with what you’re putting into their bodies. I never knew where food came from until I started college. Our children know what organic food is and they appreciate that knowledge. They bring the knowledge back to their parents.”
In addition, young people get a great thrill out of being a farmer.
“As they get older, the students realize this is a viable job possibility,” Whisenant said. “There is so much shared information here with regards to gardening.”
The Jack Dailey garden is overseen by Enrique Garcia of Garden Farms of Nevada.
In the utmost of examples, the garden and young people have become the ideal bond, thanks to educators who understand wholeheartedly that a garden is soothing and it is also always friendly.
The gardens can be discovered by visiting https://goo-gl/cy2adU.
“My dad’s heart was always with kids,” recalled Dailey Neil, adding that both her father and mother, Sidney, were long-time educators in Southern Nevada dating back to Rancho High School’s opening in the mid-1950s. “The greater the challenges, the more my parents worked to make things better.”
It’s true that a garden created for Jack Dailey Elementary grew out of a need for homegrown food– and that’s especially very cool in a climate as harsh as the desert southwest. +