For educators interested in schooling for sustainability, a garden is often a great starting place.
Even a small plot or container garden can help children learn basic ecological principles first-hand. Especially in cities, a garden may be a young person's best connection to the natural world. It can be an early opportunity to integrate schooling for sustainability into the curriculum.
School gardens enable students to:
- Care for other living things.
- Learn ecological principles.
- Draw on different learning styles.
- Experience the joy of nature.
- Practice leadership skills.
- Make connections between science, social studies, math, language arts, and other subjects.
- Be physically active.
- Use all their senses.
To make the most of their gardens, many schools:
- Share ownership, so that the garden belongs to the whole school, not just one class.
- Integrate the garden into the curriculum, including garden-based social studies, math, language arts, and science lessons.
- Encourage classroom teachers to participate with their students in the garden, rather than using the time students are in the garden as a break or an opportunity to do other work.
- Have someone (it could be a reliable volunteer) responsible for overseeing scheduling and maintenance. Freeing that person from other responsibilities ensures that they can do the job. A teacher shouldn't be expected to manage the garden on top of a full teaching load.
- Invite the local community into the garden. Unlocked gates can reduce vandalism and theft.
- Find ways to grow plants year-round. Schools in cold climates have found that greenhouses help keep students gardening through the year.
The Center for Ecoliteracy offers a downloadable 51-page pdf, Getting Started: A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classroom. It offers guidelines on raising funds, preparing sites, designing and maintaining gardens, and connecting gardens to classroom learning.