Southern Nevada's Outdoor Education Center

Monday, July 22, 2013
Desert Ballroom: Salons 7-8 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Angela M. O'Callaghan , University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Las Vegas, NV
M.L. Robinson , University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV
The Southern Area office of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) is located on 7 acres in Clark County, Nevada, the location of Las Vegas. Because this property was not large enough for commercial development, and its proximity to a highway made it undesirable for new homes, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management offered it to UNCE. The Outdoor Education Center (OEC) is composed of three acres dedicated to offering programs in the subject areas where southern Nevada Extension concentrates its efforts: Horticulture, Children and Families, and Nutrition. Many local residents have had little or no success in Mojave Desert gardening. To meet this need and the educational needs of commercial landscapers, horticulture faculty members (the authors) have created several outdoor classrooms on 1.5 acres. We developed an irrigation demonstration area, where the push of a button activates an irrigation display. Other “classrooms” are demonstration areas where students and members of the public learn about growing fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals in the challenging desert climate. Produce grown in the test vegetable and orchard areas is donated to local food pantries. In 2012, over 100 Master Gardener students and 150 commercial horticulture students used the center for hands-on training. The children’s garden is the site where we offer the Junior Master Gardener program. This is a model for schools interested in creating a school garden. Over 120 people attended Master Gardeners’ monthly tours for the public in 2012, but on any day, visitors can see underutilized palms and learn what kinds of raised beds are best for use under local conditions. The mulch display area shows how and when to use different mulches: organic, colored or metallic, and rock. The native wash, where volunteer plants are growing without irrigation, collects 450,000 gallons of water per year in an area that receives 4.25 inches of rainfall annually.