Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Jan. 26

Arizona school teaches farming, Navajo culture

The STAR School incorporates sustainable living, technology and Navajo traditions into its day-to-day curriculum. (Photo/Katrina Machetta)

The STAR School incorporates sustainable living, technology and Navajo traditions into its day-to-day curriculum. (Photo/Katrina Machetta)

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — In a quiet, rural area 25 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona, sits STAR School, a school unlike most.

STAR (Service To All Relations) School is a K-8 charter school, incorporating sustainable living, technology and Navajo traditions into its day-to-day curriculum.

STAR School Indigenous Culinary Instructor Pauline Butler said the school tries to make sure a significant STEM component is present in everything learned 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 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, 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.

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