North Las Vegas charter school implementing mental health learning to curriculum

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 8:11 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A charter school is opening up in North Las Vegas near Pecos and Las Vegas Boulevard North is taking a new approach to educating children - reading, writing and wellness.

Cactus Park Elementary will have a new way of thinking. The school introduces students to the value of de-stressing and decompressing which is said to make students eager to learn and be present in class.

”Is this the speckle Sussex?” Fourth grader Yahir Monarrez is seeing the labor of love and care, his class raised these chickens since they were chicks.

“It makes me happy because we haven’t touched them in a long time since they were cute little chicks,” said Monarrez.

“That makes it look green, purple or blue!” Yahir explained.

”Oooh it’s so heavy!” Yahir’s classmate Mia Rodriguez said.

They are seeing their friends, with the help of their environmental arts teacher Levi Casto. “There’s not a lot of schools that have gardens and chicken. My class feeds chickens and pets chickens. They return to class feeling more calm, more engaged with the school,” said Casto.

He says he’s seen students excited to come to school.

“The opportunity to feel connected to nature or something as unique as our farm is really special for our students,” he said.

What’s better is it’s a part of the curriculum... Cactus Park Elementary has been open since last August. Their grand opening at this new location catering to first through fourth graders is underway.

Not only are there chickens but soon enough there will be goats, a tortoise and a farm.

Principal Karli Casto says it’s called holistic education. “Ways that students can just ground themselves right? when you’re having a rough day and you can go out and pet a chicken it just makes your day better so that students have a way to feel comfortable and happy at school,” said the principal.

Mental health is an important factor in a student’s day. At this school, grounding or meditating is a part of the days learning and she says students are welcome to take time away from class if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

“Sometimes students come to school and something at home is bothering them or at school, they’re having a hard time and one of the things we do is called farm therapy where a student with an adult can go out decompress and pet a chicken play with a goat collect some eggs,” said Karli.

She adds not only are the students learning compassion but science, the environment and the importance of keeping accountable.