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Creating Seeds of Learning: Muir’s Farm Lab


Whether it’s seeing a ladybug or a roly-poly, a lizard, or some red-shouldered hawk flying in here for dinner. It makes a big difference in someone’s life.Jill McArthur, PUSD Farm to School Coordinator
On Earth Day 2024, the Pasadena Unified School District held a dedication ceremony and celebration to relaunch the garden at John Muir Early College Magnet. The celebration recognized the transformation of almost two acres of campus outdoor space into the new Muir Farm Lab. 

Muir Farm Lab: A Reimagined Space

Over four years, PUSD staff, students, and Pasadena Educational Foundation volunteers transformed the acreage into a multifunctional outdoor classroom. The vibrant space now features raised vegetable beds, fruit trees, soil regeneration zones, a greenhouse, a meditation labyrinth, and a California native section with a creek bed, pond, and hugelkultur mounds. 

More than just a garden, the Muir Farm Lab serves as a living laboratory for hands-on learning in science, math, reading, art, and more. It promotes healthy habits, physical activity, mental well-being, and teamwork through direct interaction with nature. This reimagined space demonstrates the power of community collaboration in cultivating engaging educational experiences rooted in the great outdoors.

An Earth Day Celebration

Attendees included Muir students who helped upgrade the space, Michelle Matthews – Executive Director of Arlington Garden, Dr. Patrick Conyers – Executive Director of the Pasadena Educational Foundation, and Tyron Hampton – District 1 City of Pasadena Councilmember who is also a proud John Muir Early College Magnet graduate.

To kick things off, Principal Dr. Lawton Gray thanked the staff members of the Farm to School Program, part of the PUSD Health Services Department, for re-envisioning and redesigning the plot. Julianne Reynoso, PUSD Assistant Superintendent of Student Wellness, spoke of the impact the space has on students’ learning and wellbeing. Ria Apodaca, Director of PUSD Health Services recognized the Pasadena Educational Foundation for its ongoing support. She highlighted the members of her team for their contributions and leadership to the project, including Katia Ahmed – Wellness Coordinator, and Jill McArthur. Ms. McArthur not only is the Farm to School Coordinator, but a master gardener who has overseen and personally labored on every aspect of this area’s metamorphosis. 

Jill McArthur spoke about the impact of natural outdoor spaces on students, from both a scientific and wellness perspective. “The abstract becomes real and that is what this is about,” said Ms. McArthur. “This is about the opportunity to get outside in a space and experience nature in many different forms, whether it’s seeing a ladybug or a roly-poly, a lizard, or some red-shouldered hawk flying in here for dinner. It makes a big difference in someone’s life.”

Before leading the attendees on a tour of the Farm Lab, Jill McArthur ended the ceremony with a quote. “Naturalist Thomas Berry said, ‘The Earth is not a place, it’s a process’,” she noted. “This has been one long process… and we’re going to continue that process.”

In the new Muir Farm Lab, the seeds of learning will process and grow for seasons to come. 


By NC Inguanzo, Community Engagement Manager