Implementing a School and Community Garden

Image of tulips

The School Garden Partnership came together as a result of a community-identified need to be more involved with schools and the educational success of their children. The idea of community-supported school gardens was quickly identified as a vehicle to involve the community and provide teachers and students with an outdoor classroom in which to build skills, connect curriculum to concrete experiences, and coach children in the exercise of stewardship. School gardens clearly present a rich opportunity to engage parents, grandparents, community volunteers, agencies, local businesses, and school staff in the education of our students. It was also clear that individual schools, teachers, and communities needed some help to ensure the long-term success of a school garden. To this end the School Garden Partnership agreed on the following two goals that would guide their work:

*Support school garden-based activities that promote overall student well being and provide the potential to improve student academic achievement through experiential learning.

*Collaborate with the city, school district, and individual schools to help develop community supported school gardens that are sustainable.

To help achieve these goals, the following four basic steps to implementing a school and community garden were identified. Figure 1 provides a visual of some of the important elements and activities associated with each of these steps:

  • Step 1: School and Community Involvement
    Having an actively participating school and community is critical to the life of a school garden. That is why it is very important that staff, faculty, students, parents, and community members know they play a vital role in supporting garden-based education.
  • Step 3: Garden Opening and Public Celebration
    The garden can and should be a hub of activity, creativity, community, and learning. Below are some ideas that will enhance community and student interest and participation in the school garden.
  • Step 4: Managing the School Garden
    Once the garden is designed and the plot is installed, it comes down to the daily maintenance of the garden. Gardens are not self-sufficient and will either thrive or go downhill fast depending on the amount of attention they receive. Ideally, a garden should be checked on daily basis.

This defines the importance of each step in the process and recommends some activities that were identified by the School Garden Partnership as essential for each step. This is not to say that your school garden team will not identify other important activities and opportunities. Appendix 1 provides a sample Garden Assessment to help keep track of your school garden development process, fill it out as your school garden progresses.