School Gardens

benefits map

Improves nutrition choices

When children taste fresh healthy food from the garden, their preferences tend to change for the better, and this change often extends to their families and their consumption choices as well. Learning to love fresh fruits and veggies can have positive long-term effects on children’s health.

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Supports classroom learning

Gardening also provides natural lessons in the role of water and energy cycles, differences in individual species, the importance of caring for our environment and understanding the food chain. Especially for middle and high school students, school gardens can support classroom learning and make complex subjects like plant sciences, nutrition, communication, visual arts, marketing and business, easier to demonstrate and understand.

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Encourages learning about the environment and connecting with nature

School gardens provide the perfect environment for learning about the natural cycles of plants and the forces that impact their growth. They show us the beauty and power of nature to connect with ourselves and each other.

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Improves lifestyle choices

When children learn about their environment and the impacts and changes that result from human activity, they often make better lifestyle and nutrition choices. Outdoor activities contribute to exercise and weight loss, by replacing sedentary activities with movement and exertion.

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Increases pride of ownership and a sense of responsibility

Giving children food-growing knowledge of contributes to their overall sense of well-being and feeling of control over their lives. Caring for plants and connecting with the natural environment helps students develop a sense of ownership and responsibility.

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Accessible learning

Anecdotal evidence suggests that students with learning difficulties often learn better through focused physical outdoor activities like gardening. Participating in school gardening improves social skills, improves participation and cooperation, and fosters parental involvement.

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Help support the local community

Extra food (and flowers!) can be grown for school lunches, food banks, nursing homes and hospitals, homeless shelters, harvest dinners, gift baskets or take-home treats for volunteer recognition or other special events or needs identified by the group.

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Benefits for the community

In addition to being a source of pride for the school and the community, gardens can provide other important benefits. School gardens are often created in partnership with UC Extensions/Master Gardeners, gardening clubs, 4H clubs and other local organizations or agencies.

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Benefits for teachers

Gardening engages students and helps them learn in a way that’s different than classroom learning. Lessons in history, about the land, people and traditions, can be conveyed through gardening activities if conducted in a way that brings these concepts to life.

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Increases self-esteem

When given a chance to experience the joy of nurturing a plant from seedling to harvest, children’s self-esteem naturally grows, as they begin to reap the fruits of their labor.

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Provides opportunities for quality time

Developing and maintaining school gardens often involves help from parents and caregivers, giving family members quality time to spend together on healthy, productive activities, without the distraction of electronic devices or other diversions. Working in the garden exposes children to the stunning visual art of nature, while also providing them with time for quiet introspection, in harmony with Mother Nature.

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Provides a variety of educational benefits in and out of the garden

School gardening provides hands-on learning experiences in many subjects, such as natural and social sciences, math, visual arts and nutrition. Teachers can provide interesting garden-based learning activities and involve students in every stage of planning and maintaining a garden, passing on valuable information about cultural diversity, history and traditions from the local community and around the world.

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How does a school garden work?
School gardening provides hands-on learning experiences in many subjects, such as natural and social sciences, math, visual arts and nutrition. They take a lot of planning and preparation, regular maintenance and ongoing financial support. Depending on the space available, the vision and approval of the school administration, the willingness of the teachers and students to do the work of fundraising and starting and maintaining a garden, a school garden can serve many different needs. Gardens can have a specific theme or a unique layout and purpose, depending on the needs and vision identified by the school and the participants.

Get involved


getting-started-header

Tips for getting started – First and foremost, you need a good plan for starting a school garden. Developing a broad base of interest and supporters will help ensure your success. Determine potential locations, what approvals you’ll need, how you plan to raise funds and seek donations (for your initial investment in garden tools and materials and for annual maintenance and new plant costs), how you’ll recruit volunteers and sponsors, form an advisory or planning committee, collectively determine the purpose of the garden and who it will serve, and decide who will plant and maintain it, and you’re on your way!

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References


Best Practices
The UC Master Gardeners of Napa County have been offering advice and information on a variety of topics related to best practices in pest management, agriculture, horticulture and much more, for the past twenty years. In addition to celebrating their 20 year anniversary, they’ve also formed a School Garden Task Force that provides outreach to share gardening expertise with parents, teachers and community members, by offering demonstrations for school staff, resources for curriculum-based garden activities and school garden specific events throughout the year.
Other References


Local Resources

Local businesses, organizations and individuals that will support school garden development:
Mid-City Nursery – American Canyon
Van Winden’s – Napa
DJ’s Growing Place – Napa
Cottage Garden Nursery – St. Helena

Supplies and tools:
Orchard Supply Hardware
Napa Recycling – Will donate compost, when available, but they do not provide delivery.


Funding


When it comes to figuring out how to fund your school garden, there are a variety of resources available to make it a little easier. Try to estimate your needs as accurately as possible. Your budget should include line items for site development or improvement, operating expenses, and curriculum development, in addition to supplies and materials. Once you’ve got your garden team assembled and a plan in place that includes your planning and design goals, and a detailed list of supplies and materials, The California School Garden Network has resources to help you locate grant sources, put a budget together, set goals, and even locate garden supplies. KidsGardening.org also offers tons of resources for locating and applying for grants. LifeLab.org has a school gardens resource page that also offers a wealth of information on finding funding for your school garden.

Donors and supporters are more likely to support your project if they understand your goals and plans and what you need from them (money, time, materials or services). It’s a good idea to put together a simple folder with your project and contact information, to share or leave with potential sponsors. It’s helpful to include a letter of endorsement from the school and a list of people who support the project, in addition to a brief description of your project and a copy of your garden layout plan. Start with parents, who should be your strongest supporters, and ask for their help in identifying potential donors by matching your needs with the goods and services they offer. Before you ask for a donation, figure out how you’ll acknowledge your donors and supporters and make sure to recognize donations of any size. Be specific about what you need when you solicit donations, so you don’t end up with things you don’t need. Be enthusiastic! Let your passion show and people are more likely to respond positively. Even if someone doesn’t get on board the first time, they may offer support in the future, so always treat everyone with kindness and respect.