College & Workforce Readiness Photo Essay

College Competencies Take Root

By Education Week Photo Staff — September 14, 2015 1 min read
A teacher helps 8th grader Kristopher Cody plant lettuce in a greenhouse at the STAR School, at the edge of the Navajo Nation near Flagstaff, Ariz.

Nick Cote describes his experiences photographing a school on the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona that integrates cultural experiences, such as working with local farmers, with students’ academic studies to nurture the necessary skills, and motivation to attend college.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, the students at the STAR School in northern Arizona would be relatively well-off. The K-8 charter school, which lies just outside the boundary of the Navajo Nation and about 30 miles from Flagstaff, is completely off the grid. The school has its own water well, and electricity is provided by solar panels. Students work with local farmers to grow enough organic vegetables to stock the cafeteria’s salad bar twice each day to feed 150 people.

As I photographed students working on a nearby farm, it was clear that all were enjoying the work. While the teachers and farmers did most of the heavy lifting, the students did their fair share of the work. On this particular day they were harvesting tomatoes and chiles, and daring each other to eat the latter was the afternoon pastime. While most schoolchildren spend most of their time indoors, these kids go on field trips each week to learn firsthand how their ancestors thrived in the desert.

If the school were located in a less remote area, organic vegetables and greenhouses on campus would be a novelty, but “food sovereignty,” as the school’s CEO Mark W. Sorensen calls it, is a necessity. In an area the size of West Virginia with about 300,000 people, there are only 10 grocery stores, he tells me. There are convenience stores in some remote areas, but they mostly sell junk food. The Navajo have been farming the desert for centuries and the school’s curriculum taps into the knowledge of the local farming community. Not only do the students take pride in growing their own food, they even claim to love kale.

STAR School 8th graders Mia Stos, left, and Kristopher Cody check the soil in a greenhouse at the school.
Gardening and home economics teacher Tyrone Thompson checks on the school's greenhouses. Local farmers teach children how to grow organic crops in the desert greenhouses.
Students head to class at the STAR School.
A school bus waits for STAR School students as they spend time at the North Leupp Family Farm on the Navajo Nation in Leupp, Ariz.
Ian Salt, an 8th grader at STAR School, carries a harvest of tomatoes and peppers grown at the farm.
STAR School 7th grader Leonardo Gonzalez reacts after tasting one of the hot peppers grown at the farm.
North Leupp Family Farm manager Stacey Jensen helps STAR School students harvest tomatoes and peppers.
STAR School 8th grader Charliegh John helps harvest tomatoes and peppers grown at the farm.
A STAR School student takes a break from harvesting at the farm.

A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

College & Workforce Readiness Opinion There’s Insurance for Homes or Cars—Why Not College Degrees?
Rick Hess talks with Wade Eyerly, the CEO of Degree Insurance, about the company's plan to make investing in a college degree less risky.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Fewer Students in Class of 2020 Went Straight to College
First-year college enrollment dropped steeply last year, a study finds, and the declines were sharpest among poorer students.
6 min read
Image shows University Application Acceptance Notification Letter with ACCEPTED Stamp
YinYang/Getty
College & Workforce Readiness Letter to the Editor Are Students Ready for Post-Pandemic Reality?
Schools must make improving students' essential skills a priority for college and career success, says the CEO and president of CAE.
1 min read
College & Workforce Readiness This Is Not a Good Time to Fall Off the College Track. Students Are Doing It Anyway
Fewer students in the Class of 2021 are applying for college financial aid, continuing a drop that started last year.
6 min read
Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are on the decline.
Applications for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form are on the decline.
Jon Elswick/AP