First Bloom

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Over the 2010-2011 school year Saguaro National Park partnered with Manzo Elementary School to engage students in nature and science concepts through the National Park Foundation's "First Bloom" program.  Students from Manzo's 3rd-5th grades were engaged hands-on in the design process as they worked weekly with the park's landscape architecture SCEP program ranger.  Over the course of the school year, they worked in teams to brainstorm, model, and finally plant a demonstration Hohokam Indian-style garden.

NPS / Manzo Elementary School


First Bloom is a National Park Foundation program that plants the seeds for a stronger relationship between Americans and their national parks, beginning with our youngest citizens. First Bloom youth are engaged in regular outdoor, hands-on activities in order to grow as people and learn how to design and plant a native garden.

First Bloom was established in 2007 by the National Park Foundation in tribute to the legacy of Lady Bird Johnson, a champion of national parks and native plants. The program was launched with an initial $1 million contribution secured by ARAMARK through the Yawkey Foundation and was supported through additional individual, foundation, and corporate support. Content partners included the National Park Service and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

The over-arching goal of First Bloom is to make a real and lasting connection between youth and their national parks.
First Bloom youth have been shown to experience gains in their level of knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment toward:

  • national parks
  • conservation
  • native plants
  • stewardship


  • Participating youth, especially those who may not have regular access to the outdoors, experience nature in a hands-on, fun, and educational setting
  • Schools and youth organizations grow through this program in the process of teaching young people about native plants and designing and planting native gardens.
  • National parks that fulfill their mission to preserve the parks, educate the public, and engage future stewards in these important places
  • Visitors to national parks who experience and learn from native gardens planted by youth

Native plants provide food and habitat for native wildlife and are a learning environment for youth. They also require less water and maintenance than non-natives. Native gardens designed by youth help parks preserve resources and teach those benefits to visitors.

The First Bloom program expanded from five cities in 2007 to sixteen sites in 2008 to 26 sites in the 2009 - 2010 program year. In total, First Bloom engaged 40 parks and over 60 youth program partners.

Manzo Summer 2011 - 119_0645
Manzo parents collected and took home summer produce including bags of amaranth leaves like this one for cooking down into soups.  In the background the 2 rain harvesting cisterns are visible.

Laura Bolyard / NPS

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Laura Bolyard, First Bloom Program Manager and Park Ranger for Saguaro National Park helps students discover the properties of various types of soil.

NPS / Manzo Elementary School


For more information about the First Bloom program, click here: First Bloom website

To view the final model of the garden created by Manzo Elementary students, click here: Final Garden Model and Description

For more information about Manzo Elementary School, check out this link: Manzo Elementary

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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