What is a school garden?

At their core, school garden programs often have four goals (KidsGardening.org, 2017):

  • Provide opportunities for hands-on learning, inquiry, observation, and experimentation across the curriculum
  • Motivate students to eat and love fruits and vegetables
  • Promote physical activity and quality outdoor experiences
  • Supply local produce to students

The wonderful thing about school gardens is that the possibilities are endless! School gardens can be designed, tailored, and cultivated to fit a school’s specific needs. They might look very different from a typical fruit and vegetable garden. Some school gardens may not grow vegetables, but other things like livestock, chickens, rabbits, pollinator plants, and bees. School gardens can be on a large plot of land in a rural setting, or they can be urban and located in the center of a large city! Gardens may be in-ground or may utilize raised beds, containers, or even hydroponic or aquaponic systems.

While versatile, here are a few tips:

  • Make a plan

A good garden begins with a good plan and a diverse a planning committee. When thinking about starting a school garden, decide: Who will serve on the school’s garden planning committee? What are school’s goals for the garden? Who will be involved in the garden preparation and maintenance? How will the garden be funded? Can in-kind donations and grants be secured? What is the intended use of the garden, and how should the garden be designed to support this use? Will the school cafeteria utilize food from the garden? How will the garden be integrated into the school curriculum? Considering questions like these are vital to ensuring the success and sustainability of a school garden.

  • Involve students

Students are a critical part of the school garden. Engage them throughout the planning process and long-term sustainability. School gardens can have impact, making your garden venture a success. During the planning process, have students provide input on what they would like to see in the garden and what the garden should look like. During the implementation phase, students can try new foods and learn about many topics from the garden. When students are involved in the planning, planting, maintenance, and harvest of the school garden, you will cultivate a sense of ownership among students.

  • Be realistic

Don’t be afraid to dream big, but remember to start small. By not becoming overwhelmed, the school will have the opportunity to add new features and expand the school garden over time to meet the needs and wants of the school community. Further, by adding new elements to the garden each year, the school can maintain interest and excitement in the garden—a huge boon to ensuring the garden’s sustainability!

For more information about creating and sustaining a school garden program, check out the comprehensive resource below:

KidsGardening.org: Create & Sustain a Program

KidsGardening.org. (2017). Create & Sustain a Program. Retrieved from https://kidsgardening.org/create-sustain-a-program/

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