Category Archives: School Garden News

School Garden News – Canada

Local Schools Get Planting

Students at five local schools will develop green thumbs this spring as part of a garden project.

St. George-German, Mount Pleasant, Sacred Heart in Paris and Braemar House and Tollgate Technological Skills Centre, both in Brantford, will take part in the new School Food Garden Start-Up Program, a pilot project of the Brant Healthy Living Coalition.

Teachers will use the gardens as outdoor classrooms to deliver curriculum and hands-on learning experience to students of all grades, including lessons on plant growth, sustainability, science, nutrition and health.


Some schools may also use vegetables they harvest in their existing breakfast and lunch programs.

Plans range from building outdoor garden beds and greenhouses to indoor containers.

“Given our harsh winter climate, schools in Ontario have a relatively short growth and harvesting period,” said Jillian Welk, health promoter for the health unit and co-coordinator of the coalition.

“However, there are a number of garden activities that schools can do during the winter months, including growing seedlings in windowsills, garden artwork, and planning crops and harvest activities for the following year,” she said.

To be eligible for the program, schools were required to develop a school garden committee that could include teachers, staff, students, parents and other community volunteers.

Each school received $1,000 for tools and supplies, a food garden guide and two on-site consultations with a food gardening expert.

School Garden News – Florida

Cultivating Young Gardeners
By Ron Matus, Times Staff Writer,

Behind Lakewood Elementary in south St. Petersburg, the college student poked the dirt with her fingers, leaving a trail of tiny craters. When she gave the word, fifth-graders, snug in winter coats, plucked seeds from their palms and plopped them in.

The students from Eckerd College and Lakewood were cultivating their new school garden, a project that supporters hope will yield more than a bumper crop of watermelon and broccoli.

“My goal is to get them to appreciate life,” said Larré Davis, a special education teacher at Lakewood whose students work in the garden twice a week. “They think a hamburger’s just a hamburger. This will give them a new appreciation for lettuce and tomato.”

In Tampa Bay and around the country, more patches of schoolyard are being tilled and tended, a trend that’s sprouting from a rich compost of other factors: the obesity epidemic and a surge in environmental awareness. A push for more outdoors teaching and more hands-on learning in science. Maybe even a desire for schools to offer more practical lessons in a bad economy.

“People may be coming at it from all kinds of specific interests, but they are converging on the same thing,” said Laurel Graham, a University of South Florida sociology professor who helped start the Tampa Bay School Gardening Network in 2007.

Nobody tracks the number of school gardens nationally, but the anecdotal evidence suggests a budding movement.

California handed out $10.8 million in 2007 to seed nearly 4,000 new and existing school gardens. In Rhode Island, a coalition of growers and educators is aiming for a garden at every school by 2010.

Even stronger evidence backs a more general trend. In 2005, 30,000 people subscribed to a kids gardening newsletter put out by the National Gardening Association. Now, 170,000 are signed up.

Around Tampa Bay, full-fledged school gardens are still rare. But there are signs of life.

About 50 Hillsborough teachers attended workshops that Graham and other USF researchers held last year. In December, the garden at Learning Gate Community School, a charter school in Lutz, was cited in an Education Week story about outdoor learning, which supporters say is a better fit with kids’ brains and learning styles.

At Dowdell Middle near Tampa, students are growing floating lettuce heads in hydroponic gardens.

“A lot of our kids are eating french fries and pizza,” said Dowdell science teacher Allan Dyer. “The idea was, if we got them to grow something healthy, maybe they’d eat it and choose those things in the future.”

Lakewood’s garden is a series of 14 raised beds, bordered by yellow marigolds to ward off rabbits and other critters. Carrots, corn, squash, sunflowers and a dozen other crops are either in the ground or ready to be transplanted from a closet-sized greenhouse.

Eckerd students laid out the garden in December. But the idea was dreamed up by Kip Curtis, an environmental studies professor at Eckerd whose two children attend Lakewood.

“I kind of happened to be at the right place at the right time,” he said.

Curtis’ parents were back-to-the-land believers. He grew up on a farm. At Lakewood, he saw an opportunity to root an educational program in agriculture.

Lakewood principal Kathleen Young saw an idea that meshed with the school’s magnet focus on medical science and wellness, as well as an opportunity to expose her students, predominantly low-income and African-American, to careers in science.

“It’s opening doors for them to think outside of, ‘I think want to be a teacher or I want to be a nurse,’ ” she said.

The Eckerd students are the Miracle-Gro in the mix.

About 15 of them are helping, with a revolving schedule that has at least three of them onsite every school day between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Many of them are getting class credit. But many are also going above and beyond, taking steps to become official mentors to Lakewood students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities.

One day last week, they helped those students plant chives and look for earthworms in the compost pile.

“Oooh, look at that!” said 11-year-old Cortez Cox, who like many of the students had never gardened before. “Something’s in there moving.”

Davis, the special education teacher, said the garden is having a powerful effect on her students. They describe the garden as “ours,” not “mine,” she said.

“Before, we were all mean to each other,” said John Grant, 12. “But now, if you have a watering can, and somebody wants it, you say, ‘Here.’ ”

The school plans to use the garden for other grades and classes.

Already, prekindergarten students have turned the soil in their hands, and second-graders have made ceramic signs with images of vegetables.

Eventually, the garden will be ripe for lessons on everything from photosynthesis to the web of life, said Peggy McCabe, the school’s science curriculum coordinator.

Students will be able to collect data on plant growth, test soil samples and watch the life cycle of butterflies, she said.

Better yet, they’ll get to reap what they sow. A harvest party is set for April.

Helping and learning

• The Lakewood Elementary garden project is in need of supplies, including 25 pairs of kids work gloves, a dozen hand shovels, watering cans, a tool shed, border fencing, a garden bench and a trellis for peas and cucumbers. If you’re interested in helping, contact Kip Curtis at (727) 864-7854 or

• To read updates about the project, go to a blog maintained by the Eckerd students,

• If you’re interested in starting a school garden of your own, you can find a downloadable guidebook at the California School Garden Network, You can also get tips and support from the Tampa Bay School Gardening Network,

School Garden News – Arizona

School’s gardening way yields national attention

By Rhonda Bodfield, arizona daily star,

Primary school teacher Molly Reed can cook, but she’s no Rachael Ray in the kitchen.

So imagine her surprise to be flying to New York as a special guest on the cookbook queen’s daytime television show.

Reed herself brought the limelight to Borton Primary Magnet School, even though she jokes that she’s now appealing to her principal for help in picking an outfit for her national debut.

She sent an e-mail to Ray last fall, explaining how the school’s community garden is being used to tackle poor nutrition and obesity at Borton, 700 E. 22nd St.

The school, which has a focus on inquiry-based project learning, long has incorporated some small gardens into the curriculum. In fact, by Principal Teri Melendez’s count, there are a dozen gardens at Borton, most of them small plots belonging to specific classes.

Last year, Reed had a class garden, which culminated in a harvest celebration, including a stir-fry using the veggies they’d grown. She was there to guide their first experience with tofu.

Inspired, she successfully wrote a grant and the new schoolwide garden was built with community muscle, technical expertise from the Community Food Bank and a lot of soaking and digging, digging and soaking.

Although a run date hasn’t yet been determined, the film crew already spent a day out at the school late last month, capturing the students in the garden and as they ran the occasional farmer’s market where students washed, packaged and sold their harvest, including lettuce, arugula, radishes and broccoli.

Their last effort sold out in two days and brought in $60, which helps support the garden.

Students improve literacy by writing factoids about each plant — carrots, for example, apparently come in seven colors. The project also helps teach math, with students adding purchases, making change, weighing vegetables and charting growth.

There are a million lessons to be taught. They’re learning that just because eggs are blue or brown doesn’t mean they’re rotten; that the tall leaves are clues to unearthing carrots with a little heft; and how to harvest broccoli — which, if you’ve ever seen it grow, is a legitimate question.

A confessed “chocoholic,” second-grader Alexandra Holiman said her family subscribes to Ray’s magazine, which she finds amusing because there’s a recipe every month for folks who cook for their canines.
Fortunately, she’s also a carrot-snacker, which is why she likes harvesting. “They’re really sweet. They are so good I want to eat them all.”

The new project is an extension of the school’s overall focus on good health.

Two years ago, the school started offering salads with nonfat dressing as a lunch choice.

It has a walking club and schoolwide jump-roping in the morning.

“We want children to know what’s healthy for them so that they can make good choices as they go through life,” Melendez said.

Reed’s students have an even clearer picture of how food affects health. She won a mini-grant last year to set up a student-powered bicycle generator to show students how it takes energy to make energy.

Initially only able to pedal about 10 seconds because of the high levels of friction, they learned about how they need to eat well to be strong. On Monday, one student pedaled for 280 seconds.

Second-grader Allie Tucker attributed some of the growth to the garden. “Sometimes, we eat from there, and the vegetables help make our bones strong.”

Reed said breakfast for her students at the beginning of the year all-too-often consisted of sugary cereals or hot cheese puffs. But after months of sampling the edible plants and herbs grown in the garden, she’s seen a big change.

“I never thought I’d hear a 7-year-old say, ‘I love chard,’ or ‘I prefer kale over greens.’ “

School Garden News – California

Local schools, local food
Advocacy group pushing Chico school district to serve more-healthful food in cafeterias

By Christine G.K. LaPado,

Debra Abbott works as an after-school gardening teacher at McManus, Parkview, Rosedale and Citrus elementary schools. Her job is funded by a special grant for low-performing and high-poverty schools. She recently helped some of her students pick lettuce, chard, spinach and carrots from their school garden, showed them how to wash the vegetables, and then helped them prepare fresh lemon vinaigrette to put on the salad she guided them to create.

“All of the kids loved it,” said Abbott of the, garden-to-classroom food. “They said they’d rather eat that than the ‘little fruit pellets’ they [were given at school] for a snack and didn’t eat. These kids want this [fresh] food.”

Abbott describes a “huge disconnect” between what she is teaching children in her gardening program and “the processed food in the cafeteria” that they are eating for breakfast, lunch and snacks. She cited the packaged, sugary cereals and high-fat breakfast entrees such as “sausage on a stick” and “sausage on a biscuit,” and “pizza every day of the week,” as prime examples of school foods that should be reduced or eliminated.

“They could serve Cheerios, Special K or Rice Krispies instead of all those sweet cereals,” said Abbott, “but they’re probably being subsidized by the sweet-cereal industry.”

Abbott is a member of a new organization called Advocates for Healthy School Communities. The group held its second “Change School Lunch” meeting on Jan. 8 at the OPT (Overweight Prevention and Treatment) for Fit Kids office on Mangrove Avenue. The group, which thus far totals nine members, is made up largely of parents, local food educators and school garden teachers—including Maria Venturino, co-owner of the Red Tavern restaurant and parent of two Chico schoolchildren.

Other members include sustainability activist and KZFR programmer Laurie Niles; Kristen Del Real, substitute teacher and school garden coordinator at Hooker Oak Elementary School and mother of two children who attend the school; and Jeremy Miller, president of Chico Food Network, a nonprofit that is working to “foster a local food system that contributes to the long-term viability of farms in our region” and “provide education regarding local food systems,” among other aims.

They are attempting to get the Chico Unified School District to improve the quality of cafeteria food, as well as make progressive, healthful changes to the district’s current wellness policy, which is in the final-draft stage.

Click link above for complete article.

School Garden News – Florida

School Garden Yields Crop of Lessons
by Tiffany Lankes,

SARASOTA – The little plot at Southside Elementary has a selection of vegetables and herbs to rival any farmers market.

Everything from dill, sage and chives to eggplant, bok choy and cabbage overruns the 15-by-10-foot space outside Catherine Lankenau’s classroom. Nineteen first-graders spend part of each school day taking care of it.

They started the organic garden with the help of parent Krista Benz, who donated the soil, mulch and plants — close to 100 — to get them started. On Thursday Rob Kluson from the Sarasota County Extension dropped by to give them tips and talk about earthworms.

“You guys are really good gardeners,” Kluson told them.

Organic gardening may be tough, but these tips from Southside first-graders (and extension agent Rob Kluson) may help get even a novice gardener started.

• Use earthworms to keep the soil naturally fertile. Throw some coffee grounds in as well, since earthworms like to eat them.

• Include other plants that attract helpful bugs, like ladybugs and spiders, that will eat harmful pests. Also include plants like butterfly bushes. Butterflies will help pollinate the plants.

• Visit a community garden and learn from people who are already doing it. “You’ve just got to experiment,” Kluson said. “You learn by trying.”

School Garden News – California

Garden Grows Math, Science
By ERICA SHEN, The Press-Enterprise

Thanks to Garrett Frasier, a math and science garden at Clayton A. Record Jr. Elementary School in San Jacinto is one step closer to completion.

For his Eagle Scout project, the 16-year-old from San Jacinto solicited donations and rallied volunteers to lay concrete in the garden.

The 1,500-square-foot garden has planters in shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles. It will be used to teach students horticulture and math.

Garrett Frasier, 16, of San Jacinto
(Photo by Erica Shen / The Press-Enterprise)
Garrett Frasier, 16, of San Jacinto, designed a garden at Clayton A. Record Jr. Elementary School as part of his Eagle Scout project. The 1,500-square-foot garden has planters in shapes such as triangles, rectangles and circles. It will be used to teach students horticulture and math.

Garrett, who belongs to Boy Scout Troop 908, started the project in September. After the planning stages, Garrett and his family and friends spent three Saturdays digging out dirt and pouring concrete.

Garrett said the project was a lesson in organizational and leadership skills.

“It taught me how to work with people and get something done,” he said.

Garrett’s friend, Kyle Holmes, who belongs to the same troop, worked on the garden for his Eagle Scout project earlier this year. He designed and constructed the wood frames for the garden and its geometric planters.

The school principal, Vince Record, said the garden has been a community effort. Besides the Boy Scouts, parents and volunteers from Home Depot also helped with the construction.

Record said the garden needs irrigation and a storage shed for hand tools. In the future, there may be some benches and a mural. Students will start planting in March.

School Garden News – Australia

Kitchen garden funding to go national
Reporter: Lucy Carter,

ELEANOR HALL: Convincing children to eat their greens can be an uphill battle and getting them to enjoy it almost impossible. But a program that’s about to be rolled out to almost 200 primary schools across Australia is promising to turn that around.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has been running in Victoria since 2001.
Now the Federal Government has committed $12.8-million dollars to help the project to expand nationally.

Lucy Carter has more.
LUCY CARTER: It’s a program that teaches children literally from the ground up, trying to make the idea of organic food attractive and interesting to years three to six.

Celebrity chef, food writer and founder of the program, Stephanie Alexander explains.
STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: The children have one full class a week in the garden and a double class in the kitchen.

From the very beginnings, they start to learn about where their food comes from. They start to enjoy all the magic of a garden and then once the crops are ready for picking, they take their harvest into the kitchen and in the kitchen they are shown fantastic ways of turning this largely vegetable crop into lovely food.

LUCY CARTER: Ms Alexander says the program encourages children to look at food in a number of different ways.

STEPHANIE ALEXANDER: They learn both actual cooking skills but they also learn the infinite potential of the stuff they’ve grown in the garden and then they sit around a table with their friends and with the volunteers who assist and learn all about the social joys of sharing food around a table which for many of them is a new experience.

LUCY CARTER: Sarah Warren is the Kitchen Garden program coordinator at Southmoor Primary School in Victoria, one of 27 schools in the state that currently has the program in place.

SARAH WARREN: It is not just a program that looks at cooking skills. It is a program that is really developing that whole knowledge of where food comes from and what it looks like if it is growing in the ground and not just picked up from the supermarket.

LUCY CARTER: She says teaching children about sharing food is one of the most rewarding aspects of the program.

SARAH WARREN: Especially when we first started, I mean the number of children that hadn’t set a table before and hadn’t really sat down on a daily basis and shared a meal with people that they are at home with, so I think that is a really important sort of social aspect of it.

It makes it more than just a cooking program. It makes it more of a, you know sharing what they have eaten and really enjoying and celebrating what they have actually grown.

LUCY CARTER: The program has been so successful in Victoria, it secured $12.8-million dollars in federal funding to help it expand it nationally.

Over the next four years, almost 200 schools will be able to apply for grants to set up their own kitchen garden.

Sharon Reeves is the principal of Alawa Primary School in Darwin. Her school already has a small farm in place, but will incorporate the kitchen garden program from next year, and act as a demonstration school for the Territory.

SHARON REEVES: I think it gives the purpose to the farm. I just think it is a wonderful opportunity for our students that I can’t see any equivalent for.

LUCY CARTER: She says the school has huge expectations for the project.

SHARON REEVES: Big visions of inviting like the dads one week and the mums another week and maybe grandmas or friends of the family, because we really want to encouraging that link too and build it in – working in partnership between the school and home, and therefore strengthening the links of school that way as well.

LUCY CARTER: The Federal Government is expected to announce this week which schools have received grants to start kitchen garden projects.

ELEANOR HALL: Lucy Carter reporting.