Teaching & Learning

School Gardens: Growing Minds

School gardens yield infinite benefits

A garden on school grounds can provide abundant lessons for students, and the beginning of the school year is the time for them to start thinking about building and planting one.

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Anna Cash

Several years back, Anna Cash’s fourth-graders at Harrington Elementary School in Oxnard annually planted seeds, turned over soil, and prepped garden beds for bountiful harvests of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Cash, a member of the Oxnard Educators Association, says each year’s crop of eager gardeners posed such questions as “How deep do we plant this seedling?” and “When will we start pulling up the lettuce?” The questions and answers help deepen student learning and experiences.

 

“With school gardens, we have the opportunity to teach a range of lessons and subjects,” says Cash, now a first-grade teacher. “Students use math, science and biology to measure and track their seedlings. They use language arts to document their work, make observations, and even create presentations for the community, and use art skills to illustrate reports about their crops.”

Community involvement

Seedlings for Harrington’s garden were courtesy of Deardorff Family Farms nearby — and demonstrate how community can be involved. The school has since been newly constructed and modernized, including new garden beds, sponsored by Harbor Freight Tools.

“Creating a school garden means you’re connecting with your community,” says Sharon Danks, author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. “You can bring in local volunteers to share their knowledge, and your students learn what’s invasive and what’s welcome in the green world around them, all valuable lessons to take with them.”

Below are just a few of the resources available to educators interested in starting and maintaining a garden, and garden-related curriculum.

Garden Resources

Life Lab: K-12 lesson plans, activity guides, educator workshops and consultations.
Collective School Garden Network: step-by-step guidance for garden projects in gaining support and funding, planning, and teaching.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Schoolyard Habitat Project Guide
KidsGardening
Reading Rockets Activity Guides: Environment, Gardening, The Lorax,
Our Green World: Children’s books related to gardening
Gardening Resources From the USDA: The People’s Garden

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