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A young boy inspects a garden plant with big leaves. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension]

Summer learning for teachers: school gardens

Did you know most teachers spend their summer as students? Fortunately, there’s lots of fun learning opportunities for school garden champions coming up very, very soon!

mindy hanak, gardens program coordinator with uf/ifas extension sarasota county, works with children at a local school garden

Mindy Hanak, gardens program coordinator with UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, works with children at a local school garden. [CREDIT: UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County]

Here in Sarasota County, we are fortunate to have many school gardens where teachers, school volunteers, Extension staff (like the Family Nutrition Program), and our enthusiastic Master Gardener Volunteer members share their joy and knowledge of growing veggies with local students. Our program was fortunate to facilitate seeds, starter plants, and planting lessons for both the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters, prior to closures. Who knew kids get such a kick out of watching kohlrabi grow, picking tomatoes, or digging for bugs? The best feedback we get is when teachers hear parents share stories how their kids have started gardens at home.

It isn’t peak growing season for veggie crops in Florida right now. Many edible gardens have been put to bed. While the school gardens sleep through the summer,  we take time to dream and plan our next season and to refine our school gardening skills. Many teachers spend summer completing professional education or planning curricula to stay up-to-date and ready to teach for the next year. So, I am sharing some upcoming garden education opportunities. If you are a teacher, volunteer, or interested parent/guardian keen to learn more about school gardens then keep reading!

Online workshops

Our world has changed when it comes to face-to-face (or, mask-to-mask) interactions. One benefit has been the ability to learn from others far away and in a cost-friendly fashion.  One such opportunity was shared by Deb Walker, the agriculture teacher at SMA Prep.  The national conference she “LOVED” attending is offering a virtual conference this week, and organizers note that the event is free to educators!

Learn more about the Virtual Summit, hosted by the National Agriculture in the Classroom organization June 24-25. Review the agenda to find sessions that interest you, then make sure to register ASAP to hold your seat.

Another online opportunity to consider is the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium hosted by the American Horticultural Society: There are live sessions scheduled for July 8-10. In addition, they’ve pre-recorded many interesting topics, like horticultural therapy, repurposing materials in the garden, STEM, permaculture, and extending garden learning opportunities to curriculum beyond STEM and plant science.

UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County will offer our annual school garden workshop online this July. Keep your eyes on our listings page to register, once they are posted. Until then, please ‘Save the Date” for July 24. If you would like to be emailed once this workshop posts, please contact

Florida Ag in the Classroom has recorded webinars available. For awesome curricula tied to standards you can also download free PDFs.  FAITC also offers school garden grants so check their site regularly for updates.

School garden grants and opportunities

Current grants:

Upcoming Grants  eligibility varies; check websites for grant details

Like many teachers I look forward to learning more about my favorite topics this summer. The opportunity to be a student learning about favored topics often reinvigorates and inspires future teaching. I look forward to seeing you online soon!

School garden resources:

2 Comments on “Summer learning for teachers: school gardens

  1. Thank you!!!! I can’t wait to hear new information!!!! My firsties love working in our garden!