Arturo Ledezma, a volunteer with Atmos Energy, loads a wheelbarrow with soil Oct. 24. The volunteers helped build North Texas Healthy Communities’ first garden for Arlington ISD at the Wimbish World Language Academy, 1601 Wright St. The garden will provide a place for urban students to learn where their food comes from, academy Principal Chelsea Kostyniak said. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Wimbish World Language Academy Principal Chelsea Kostyniak raked dirt in the rain alongside Atmos Energy volunteers at the school’s new learning garden. 

The volunteers helped build what will be a part of the academy’s curriculum aimed at making its students global citizens.

Arlington Independent School District installed its first learning garden through Texas Health Resources’ North Texas Healthy Communities Oct. 24.

“We really want that cultural piece because food and language and culture all go together. And they’re urban kids, so they’re not connected. They don’t know how their food grows,” Kostyniak said. “So to make them global citizens, it’s so important for them to see that this really is where our food comes from.”

The 2,340-square-foot outdoor learning environment will grow Texas native plants, vegetables, fruit and perennial vegetation, school garden teacher Mary Jo Greene said.

Chelsea Kostyniak, the principal at the Wimbish World Language Academy in Arlington, rakes dirt Oct. 24 at the construction of her school’s garden. The garden will provide students an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have, Kostyniak said. “They’re learning how to apply what they’re learning in the classroom in something that’s real life. Growing vegetables and learning how to sustain a healthy body is the basic foundation for having a successful life,” she said. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)
Volunteers from Atmos Energy, Ryan Sharp, left, and Santiago Caldera, dump soil into a raised garden bed. The 2,340-square-foot learning garden will have nine raised beds that will be home to Texas native plants, vegetables and fruit. Mary Jo Greene, an outside consultant to Texas Health Resources’ North Texas Healthy Communities and school garden educator with Made Greene, said the school and district administration, students’ families and community showed interest in having the garden long before the construction. “I’m excited, really excited, for them to be able to create this. Gardens really reflect the culture of the school,” Greene said. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)
Alexis Watt, a volunteer from Atmos Energy, places a layer of cardboard under soil inside a raised garden bed Oct. 24 at the Wimbish World Language Academy. The nine raised garden beds will grow fruits and vegetables that are culturally significant to the students of the academy. Chelsea Kostyniak, the principal of the academy, said students learn half of their day’s work in either French, Spanish or Mandarin and half in English. The pre-K through sixth grade school teaches students to become global citizens, she said. “The goal is that by the time they go to sixth grade, they are biliterate,” she said. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Greene said most school gardens die within two years, but she senses the academy’s garden will thrive and be expanded in the future.

“It’s like a puppy. Everybody wants one, it looks really great and things like that. But then the interest dies out, the people back away and it’s done,” Greene said.

She said that is not the case at the Wimbish World Language Academy.

“I think (they need) that connection to land that they don’t really have because everything (is) covered in concrete,” Kostyniak said. “When we have people from different parts of the world come (here), this is just, like, an extension to their experience.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...