Case Study

Creosote Salve

Stacy Evans

Food Literacy Coordinator, Tucson Unified School District

Alex Peterson

University of Arizona


This lesson connects students with alternative ways plants can be utilized in everyday life.

This lesson can be adapted regionally and encourages students to research the cultural connections of native plants and their medicinal uses.

Case Narrative

The following narrative shares the practical wisdom that contributed to the lesson development in addition to how, and why, it was taught in this manner.
The Creosote Salve workshop was created for the Food Literacy Lab at Manzo Elementary. With creosote growing throughout our campus, it lent itself well to an activity that introduced students to alternative uses for plants. Typically, we focus on growing food, teaching culinary skills and connecting these activities with classroom objectives. The process for creating the salve is similar to the items we use from the garden in that we grow the creosote, make observations and research the plant, learn how to sustainably harvest and find a recipe or set of instructions for how to use it. I love how the culinary skills that are learned in the Food Literacy Lab can be applied for students to learn how plants benefit us beyond food. I can see the connection students make between plants and themselves and I truly believe it encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility for the environment around them and what it has to offer when we take good care of it and ourselves.
Creosote Lesson Template

Making Creosote Salve

Lesson Series: Creosote Salve

This lesson was created to encourage students to begin thinking about the ways in which we interact with plants beyond food. Tucson and the Southwest is rich in local, native medicinal plants. Researching the way these plants have been used to sustain people can promote respect for these cultures and the environment we share. This lesson also encourages thoughts and investigation into where medicine originated and bringing us back to connecting with plants.
Next Generation Science Standards:ESS3.C Human activities in agriculture, industry and everyday life have had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help protect Earth’s resources and environments.

This lesson can be adapted by classrooms in different regions by first researching native plants and their uses. Then, create a plan to grow some of these plants with the intention of harvesting them to incorporate into the salve workshop. Be sure to find a source for these plants at a local nursery in the case that you are unable to grow your own. You can also often find dried plant material to purchase online.

Melting, mixing, and pouring the salve can be challenging for younger students so adapting this lesson as more of a demonstration may be necessary.

Creosote Salve Demonstration_Evans_2020.mp4

Creosote Salve Demonstration

Stacy Evans, case author and Food Literacy Coordinator, demonstrates how to make creosote salve.

Medicinal Uses of Creosote

Alex Peterson, a University of Arizona student, and Stacy Evans present on the medicinal uses of Creosote.
Who are the students?The students engaging with this lesson are third, fourth and fifth graders at Manzo Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona
Who are the garden leaders?The garden leaders are Stacy Evans, Caleb Ortega, and Moses Thompson.
What other kinds of schools have you used this in?This activity has been used in professional developments outside of the classroom.

Connections to Ecoregion Topics

This lesson brings in Traditional Ecological Knowledge from the Navajo Nation. He shared stories of how creosote is used in his community, and the importance of taking only what you need when using a resource. He also emphasized that people from other regions or geographies should not come in and extract resources from local communities in ways that disrupt the ecosystem balance or harm local wildlife or people.

Garden-based teaching can foster appreciation of indigenous knowledge

Click the image to the left to read the full article from Science and Children, a journal by the National Science Teaching Association. Authored by Eileen Merritt, Alex Peterson, Stacy Evans, Sallie A. Marston, and Steven Zuiker.