Get Kids Gardening!

Get Kids Gardening!

Fri 26 Oct 2012

Story by Rose Judd-Murray
 

As it’s Farm to School Month, we’re celebrating with some top gardening tips for getting kids out and growing their own!

Re-posted with permission from the National Farm to School Month’s blog.

School gardening engages students by providing a dynamic environment to observe, experiment, nurture and learn. School gardens are living laboratories where students can draw upon experiences from real life as they explore the natural cycles of plant growth and begin to understand the complexities of their food system.

Farm to School Month is a great opportunity to expose students, administrators and parents to the benefits of participating in a local food system. If you’re looking for a way to continue the momentum throughout the remainder of the school year—or even expand your level of commitment to healthy eating and living—a school garden is a leap in the right direction.

Each school garden is unique; ideally they’re created to meet each school’s needs and goals. Getting started can be intimidating, but the steps required to put together a successful and sustainable program are the same. For the past 29 years, the National Gardening Association (NGA) has provided grant funding, resources, and research dedicated to supporting youth and school gardening programs. NGA Kids Gardening staff and educators are here to help you develop, design, install and maintain your school garden.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about school gardens and how to get growing:

I’d like to build a school garden program, where do I start?
The first step is to rally support from administrators, teachers, volunteers and funders. Your garden team members will be your support network—they’ll be the people that keep the project sustainable. Using resources from our website, you can help to build the case for having a school garden. You’ll need to have answers to questions like, “Why do you need a garden?” and “What do you want students to achieve through learning in the garden?” Use your team members to build and expand your vision for the garden.

We have a small space, can we still have an effective school garden?

Yes! Some schools we’ve worked with were given a single parking space in the parking lot for their school garden. They installed two raised beds in the space and had great success! The most important thing to remember is to plan big but start small. A gigantic project can have great potential, but it can also exhaust the enthusiasm of your students and volunteers. Let your successes be small and expand your program a little bit each year to keep it fresh and exciting for everyone.

What will we do during the summer? How can we maintain the garden?
Summer may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but with proper planning you’ll find that the garden can be easily maintained while students are away for a few months. Making plans for maintenance before you install your garden will decrease the stress for coordinators and volunteers. If you’ve already installed your garden—design a maintenance plan with your garden team. Ask for innovative ideas for meeting your maintenance needs OR don’t be afraid to put your garden “to bed” for the summer. There are lots of cooler season crops that can be fully harvested in the fall and spring.

I want to learn more about how to start a school garden, where can I get more information and resources?
The best option for new garden educators is to take School Gardening 101! This inexpensive online course is designed to introduce teachers to the benefits of a school garden program; help them identify ways to build support for developing a garden; create a vision, theme and design; and distinguish the best curriculum for incorporation into their classroom. Participants will gain practical knowledge for laying the groundwork of a successful program. Course participants will receive valuable feedback from their instructor and other teachers while learning new avenues for student instruction. Register for winter or spring 2013 courses now!

See the KidsGardening.org website to learn more about the benefits of school gardening programs and grant opportunities.

About the author: Rose Judd-Murray is an educational specialist for the National Gardening Association. The National Gardening Association is dedicated to their mission of 'A Garden in Every School' . For more information visit garden.org or kidsgardening.org.

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