School community gardens have been growing in popularity over the last 15 years. Approximately 27 percent of public elementary schools have one. School gardens promote physical activity as well as healthy eating, and they have been linked to improved academic performance. REAL School Gardens, a nonprofit that trains teachers to use gardening and the outdoors in education, says children learn best when lessons include experiences.
The benefits of a school community garden aren’t just for students. In one study, the number of teachers who were satisfied on the job doubled after their school introduced a community garden. Find out how to cultivate a garden in your school using these tips and gardening promotional products to plant a seed of interest.
Gather community support
It takes a village to start a school community garden—involve students, parents, teachers, administrators, food service and custodial staff. Rally community support, too. Be prepared to make your case and discuss the benefits, as well as what you’ll need for your garden to thrive. Ask people to donate their time, expertise or resources. Show appreciation to your helpers with a school branded seed packet or rain gauge.
Pick the right site
A good location is a must. When choosing your site, consider these factors: Is the site safe and protected from rodents and vandals? Is it easily accessible? Is there a water source close by? Is there adequate sunlight? And, is the soil free of contaminants? If finding a good location is problematic, consider indoor or container gardening.
Harvest student insight
Hold a brainstorming session or survey students and staff to determine what kind of garden they’d like to plant. Discuss the different kinds of gardens and the benefits of each. After all, a school community garden can serve a multitude of purposes. Be sure to thank participants for their input with a garden bookmark or seed stake.
Now that you know what type of garden you’ll plant, use it to engage students in learning. For example, a vegetable garden is both a source of nutritious food and a way to learn about math. A botanical garden can be a great place to discover nature and study agriculture. And a flower garden may provide a welcoming place to gather, observe insects and learn about the environment.
Reap what you sow
Consider how students will benefit from their labor. Will they take home fruits and vegetables to eat as a nutritious snack? Will they use herbs to cook a delicious meal in class? Can some of the food be used to prepare school meals? Or, might your budding gardeners sell what they’ve grown to fund more gardening? Consider renting a booth at the local farmers market, and recruit student volunteers to sell your school garden’s harvest. Outfit your gardeners with school logo’d hats to show your school spirit.
A school community garden is a great way to promote physical activity, healthy eating and learning. Garner excitement and participation with gardening promotional products. Then plant that seed—who knows what may grow from it?