ecoliteracy.org

School Gardens

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.

Essay
Against All Odds: School Gardens Bloom in West Contra Costa
Alice Lee Tebo

A collaborative of teachers, administrators, community members, and students creates successful school gardens in some tough places through the power of community.

Download

A downloadable 66-page booklet with detailed advice for designing, creating, and maintaining five types of educational gardens.

Download

A 51-page guide for creating school gardens as outdoor classrooms.

Read More

Typesort icon Title Description
Essay Beyond a Garden in Every School

School gardens should be thought of as the center of the school, and not just another program or place.

Essay The School in Every Garden

School gardens teach children the balance between living and merely surviving.

Essay So Much Magic around the Garden

An urban school that once looked like a prison yard is transformed into a dynamic "living library" for ecoliteracy education.

Essay Against All Odds: School Gardens Bloom in West Contra Costa

A collaborative of teachers, administrators, community members, and students creates successful school gardens in some tough places through the power of community.

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