Creating a multicultural school garden program

More students will benefit when the school garden is an inclusive space.

Photo by AgriLife, creative commons license
Photo by AgriLife, creative commons license

School gardens are touted as experiential learning labs for students of all ages. However, it is important to design and implement culturally appropriate garden programming that benefits all students. School gardens can be most impactful for students of all cultures when you intentionally plan an inclusive, multicultural garden program. This is especially important in diverse school districts and beneficial regardless of the area demographics.

To build an authentic multicultural school garden program, try following these recommendations. Understand that some of these recommendations may take some time and some may need to be revisited as your program and/or student body grows and evolves.

  • Work to understand the participants in your school garden program. What are their cultural backgrounds? Do you have any students that have moved from other countries or other parts of the U.S.? These cultural identities have a lot of significance in the lives of your students. One way to talk and learn about culture is through food.
  • If the school garden program is optional, take note of who is participating and who is not with regard to cultural background. Work to build a connection with some of the students that are not participating, with food and the garden as a platform. Offer opportunities for them to connect with the garden, as outlined below.
  • Once you have a sense of the cultural backgrounds and identities of your students, it is time to explore the cultural foods that have significance to your students. This is an excellent opportunity for students to share about foods and food culture that is important to them and their families. Inviting parents and relatives to share more, or perhaps cook and eat food together is a great way to begin or deepen relationships with the family members of your students. It is also an opportunity for students of different cultural backgrounds to learn about the cultural lineage that the family members represent.
  • Explore with your students what foods are possible to grow in your area from the dishes that were featured or discussed. This is a great way to plan a portion of the garden with the students and encourage involvement and buy-in. Again, family members, if they have gardening experience, can be a great resource to assist with planning or explore new gardening techniques.
  • Continue to explore ways to integrate the various cultures that are represented in your school garden program. Honoring the wide array of experiences that students have in relation to food is essential to keeping the garden an inclusive space. Implementing this in an authentic way can be challenging, so reflection on the process and continued effort will be helpful. Experiencing the significance of food from various cultures will be most authentic when someone represents it from that culture. Making the space for representative voices from a variety of cultures is a great step towards making your garden program inclusive.

For further inspiration, see below for a few other examples:

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