Escuela Manzo

Tucson, AZ

A school that integrates an on-site garden, greenhouse and animal habitat, in Tucson AZ

“The greenest elementary school on the planet”

  • K-5 grade curriculum is fully integrated with their successful garden initiatives, as well as with the arts and the immediate community of Barrio Hollywood.
  • Manzo’s gardens are true learning spaces for the students.
  • Food from the school gardens is used in the school lunch program, and to help address food insecurity in the Barrio Hollywood community
  • Student work is highly individualized, as are the ways in which students can apply and demonstrate what they have learned.

ETWC Report Summary: At Manzo people teach and learn with heart, passion, and a generosity of spirit. One can observe in children and staff a beautiful energy that derives from the enthusiasm with which they pursue projects that connect required curriculum with their families, the community, and the heritage of their ancestors. The principal and staff value families as partners, working together to support student academic success. Students are provided with an education that draws together their experiences in the cycles of the gardens, the tending of farm animals and an understanding of their roles as future stewards of an environment that is under severe stress from climate change, pollution, and poor farming and livestock practices. Three specific characteristics make the school distinctive: 

The first distinctive element is the  integration of academics, gardening, and raising animals in responsible and sustainable ways, all with the goal of becoming a positive future citizen. Inspired by literature, all learners, big and small, strive to see the world through the lens of social justice, as they roll up their sleeves, act, and do something to make a difference. Social studies are not an isolated discipline; they are taught with real problems from the real world.  

A second distinctive element is high personal and academic expectations delivered with a belief that every student has gifts to be uncovered through integrated and individualized learning opportunities. At Manzo, teachers not only teach required state and city curricula, but ensure that each child is well known to the entire professional and paraprofessional staff members, including staff provided through local agencies and universities. An example is how the University of Arizona’s Community and School Garden Program has worked with Manzo Elementary since the fall of 2010, assisting site coordinators, teachers, and students in the installation and maintenance of school gardens.   

The third distinctive element is the deep community roots of Manzo’s principal,  Steven La Turco. La Turco grew up in the neighborhood his school serves, and he and his extended family still live within walking distance to Manzo, in the neighborhood known as “Barrio Hollywood.” His vision, compassion, and connection to the community are essential motivators to help ensure that the children from Barrio Hollywood are afforded the very best, individualized, and engaged education possible. 

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Manzo has a symbiotic relationship with Univ. of Arizona, supplying volunteers, interns, and garden expertise.

The school won Best Green School Award in 2012 from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The composting program teaches valuable lessons about reducing waste and recycling.

Student exhibit enthusiasm for the gardening and husbandry curriculum and activities.

The courtyards around which the classrooms are arranged become vibrant instructional spaces.

The same is true of the small orchard and other gardens behind the school.