School Gardens: What You Need to Know
Since the early 1900s, school gardens have been flourishing throughout the nation. Community and school gardens were first created to help raise the moral and social skills of children who used the gardens.
Opportunities for Growth & Interaction
School gardens can go beyond the scope of the classroom, serving as opportunities for students, teachers, and even members of the community to interact. While this interaction may help improve interpersonal social skills, it can also teach students how to work cooperatively with each other and their elders.
By caring for a garden, students can become more responsible, creative, and patient, and they can take pride in their work and surroundings.
A school garden allows students to work in a safe outdoor environment where they can engage with one another and learn about nature. Some studies also reveal that students who learn in an outdoor environment, such as a garden, have improved environmental attitudes.
Practical Application of Learning Subjects
Teachers throughout the country are learning more about the educational benefits that school gardens can provide.
Whether students learn more about plants and insects, add and measure garden plots, or discover how food is grown, a school garden can serve as a teaching resource for nearly every subject taught in an elementary school classroom.
Not only that, but—unlike other methods of learning—a school garden is created by nature and gives students inspiration to create their own works of art.
Maintaining the Garden
Maintaining a school garden does not have to become overwhelming—create a schedule for gardening care and distribute the responsibilities to many students, which will increase involvement.
Students should feel a sense of ownership and pride for their garden to flourish—being involved will make them feel that the garden is theirs. As new students work in the garden, they can add their own creativity and individuality.
For information on preparing for a school garden see the Florida Master Gardener article “Back-to-School (Gardens) Shopping List.” Consider asking students can bring in needed garden items.
First, determine a budget for the garden, taking into account the cost of supplies, such as soil, plants, fertilizers, garden tools, and educational supplements. Once you have a budget, funding can come from a variety of sources:
- Schools may have already budgeted for a garden— note that they are more likely to provide funding if the garden is proven to be an educational tool and classroom asset.
- Parent/teacher organizations may have funds to offer, or they may be willing to host a fundraiser.
- Local businesses, such as garden and landscaping centers, may donate plants and soil or offer expert advice. Other businesses may be willing to help sponsor a garden project.
- Garden clubs may be able to donate money and volunteer assistance, which comes with added garden skills and practical knowledge.
- Local service organizations may help financing the project.
- The local County Extension office may be able to provide help with funding and give expert advice from Extension agents and Master Gardener volunteers. The local office is also an excellent place to find area-specific information about starting a garden.
For more information, visit the School Gardens section of the Florida School Garden Competition website.