The first thing I like about this chapter of the book, How to Grow a School Garden, is that the first year will involve some trial and error. Better with one grade, say the authors than four or five different grades. It also recommends that those most interested should be part of a garden committee for the pilot year. As one of my colleagues commented on a previous post about gardening, our school is rich with faculty who love gardening and have very green thumbs.
Managing gardens for a dozen or so classes becomes quite a management task, and often require garden coordinators. These can be paid garden professionals, the nearby community, or parent volunteers. They should be people who can share their passion with the children.
Next, linking the garden to the curriculum. The California Department of Education has published a set of content standards as have many others. That publication is available here.
As with other curricula, there should be a scope and sequence that makes sense, both to the school’s mission as well as the age of the students. Also, other subjects should be integrated with the garden curricula. Science is an obvious one, but garden art, language arts, and math are also fairly easy to integrate. From my experience with our lower school math teacher who is also a master gardener and has been generous to share her garden with our students, some of the activities we have done include: taste tests involving data collection and graphing, area and perimeter of garden beds, estimation and measurement (weight, length, number of beans, etc.), and geometry in the garden.
They highly recommend a garden journal, and as rigorous as your planned curriculum might be, be flexible and allow for the wonder and awe of nature to guide and possibly change your lessons.
It shouldn’t be up to the garden committee, or even the classroom teachers to maintain and grow the garden. It should involve everyone in the community and organizing maintenance schedules may be required.
Finally, this chapter ends with two things:
- The need for professional development. Non-gardeners like me will need to learn from the expertise that surrounds us and in turn, pass it on.
- The need to evaluate your program to help build on what works in the outdoor classroom, and what doesn’t.
Chef and author Alice Waters founded a non-profit that includes, The Edible School Yard. By the way, her new book, In The Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart is fabulous.