Published : Saturday, April 29, 2017 | 1:54 PM
New Horizon Pasadena, an independent Islamic school, unveiled its expansive new Peace Garden at a Friday morning ceremony on campus to celebrate and tour the lush outdoor space that aims to cultivate deeper academic learning, environmental awareness, interfaith community-building, and improve overall health for students.
Inspired by the school’s theme of “Growing Peace One Child at a Time,” The Peace Garden was designed by students for students and doubles as a blossoming learning space that spent five years on the drawing board until additional funding from Nickelodeon allowed the school to bring the project to life and invite children to enjoy the outdoors in a new and exciting way.
“It’s a space that’s not just a place of beauty, but it is a functional outdoor classroom space–and extension of the learning that takes place throughout the school. A place where exploration, experimentation and discovery live,” said New Horizon Head of School Amira Al-Sarraf.
According to Al-Sarraf, plans began back in 2011 to build out something useful and new in the back portion of the campus that morphs into a triangle lot and ideas of a new building, a pool or a tennis court were quickly determined to be unrealistic.
“What could fit there was a garden,” said Al-Sarraf.
The seed money for the garden came through a donation in 2012 from Nickelodeon when they came out to Pasadena with the cast of “How to Rock” and worked with the students as part of their Big Help program.
In recent years, students were encouraged to submit drawings and ideas for what should be included in the 8,000 square foot garden.
“We at New Horizon believe in the power of dirt and fresh air and the outdoors in a young child’s life and there’s much in the way of research to
support this belief and support healthy living,” said Al-Sarraf.
The design and planning of the garden was made possible by the garden committee comprised of alumni, parents, community members and teachers over the past five years.
A New Horizon teacher suggested to make the garden a peace garden as a metaphor to inspire harmony in the post “9-11” world, according to Al-Sarraf.
“It’s fitting that our space be a message to our students and our community of our commitment to peace,” said Al-Sarraf.
Unique features of the garden include a Peace or Salam path in the form of Arabic script, a Contemplation Circle, Friendship Fountain, Discovery Pond, Fruit Orchard, Silk Road Herb Garden, California natives, and garden boxes.
“It’s teaching our children about peace, about having respect for the environment. Pasadena is such a diverse city so to have neutral respect and to teach the tenants of peace to our children, it’s hard to imagine a more important message or vision,” said Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek.
Other key features include water harvesting components such as a hügelkultur, swales and berms, and a rain barrel. This past year, the students at NHS were recognized by National Geographic as “Next Generation Environmental Leaders” for their water conservation work in developing a swale in the garden.
“Instead of four walls and a ceiling like a traditional classroom, the Peace Garden–this classroom–has two walls and the sky for a ceiling,” said Al-Sarraf.
An important element in the garden space is the presence of original student and community art in the form of mosaics with the magnificent Peace Wall mosaic as the final installation. Along with students, local artists, including Artist-in-Residence Leigh Adams, of the L.A. Arboretum, have worked on bringing exquisite art into the garden.
“Your thoughtful approach to education and community building is a desirable attribute that will serve as an exemplary teaching tool for others to emulate. Your commitment and service to our community’s youth and residents will continue to have a positive impact for many years to come,” according a written statement from Councilmember John Kennedy.
Over the past five years, with the design, building, and development of the Peace Garden, the school has expanded its friendships with many in the gardening community of Pasadena, Altadena, and the greater Los Angeles area and has served as a source of garden education with regular weekend community workshops.
The garden has also served as a space for interfaith work with partners in the faith community, such as Netiya and Sinai Akiba Academy.
Just last week, Nickelodeon stars Greg Cipes (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Daniella Monet (Paradise Run), along with the Nickelodeon crew, as part of their Earth Day promotion, visited New Horizon’s Peace Garden and helped students with planting corn and fragrant plants.
Nickelodeon also presented the school with an addition $5,000 grant to support environmental education curriculum and future programs.
New Horizon School Pasadena, 651 N. Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, (626) 795-5186 or visit www.newhorizonschool.org.