School garden programs and starting a school garden takes planning

Starting a school garden takes planning and dedication, but the result helps students learn math, science, art, history, social studies and so much more.

Having a school garden offers lots of learning and living opportunities for youth. Natural science education is a given when talking about gardening, but gardening in schools also involves skills in math, geometry, problem solving, social studies, and exercise. School gardens teach more than that. They also inspire creative writing, music, poetry and art. Other essential life lessons taught in the garden are learned through cooperation and having to care for other living things. In this manner students learn elusive comprehensive emotional lessons such as compassion and empathy. School gardens also provide opportunities to expose youth to new foods.

Studies show that children who are exposed to homegrown vegetables are more likely to eat more servings of vegetables throughout their life. Nutrition education is another of life’s lessons learned in school gardens. Michigan State University Extension stresses that starting a garden is possible with a bit of planning, dedication and support from school personnel, maintenance and grounds keepers.

Now is a great time to start planning for next year's garden. If you want to start a school garden I recommend following a few important steps.

  1. Form a committee – committees provide support and help to divide the labor. This pool of dedicated leaders will bring a variety of skills to enhance the probability of success of your program.
  2. Plan your objectives – planning defines your purpose and goals. Each school garden is unique and can provide all teachers in your school with a learning aide. Plan your lessons, too: from story time to reinforcing math lessons school gardens provide so much more than the benefit of good food to eat.
  3. Start small and grow – the most successful gardens start small and build each year. Starting big can make the task of maintenance and sustainability seem daunting and easily overwhelm even the most enthusiastic gardener. This is also the time to cultivate community partners to help sustain your garden year around.
  4. Plan to educate your colleagues – using your garden as a vehicle for continuing education for your colleagues and peers builds a solid foundation of understanding among all the participants in promoting sustainability. There are a variety of projects and subjects that will entice people of all ages to participate in your garden venture.
  5. Create a permanent garden site and design – your garden should be located in an area that receives plenty of sunlight, is close to water, electricity and is easily accessible to the students and volunteers. There should be enough room to expand and include a place for compost bins and storage shed.

School gardens are a fun way to reinforce classroom lessons and offer immediate real life applications for the students. They also provide a bit of nature close to windows and playgrounds offering an oasis to the hustle bustle of school life. Find a list of school garden and financial resources from Kids Gardening Org a division of National Gardening Association. You can learn more about gardening from the Michigan State University Gardening in Michigan website.

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