We live in an era when many children and adults spend less time in nature and know little about the source of their food and how to make healthy food choices. Children who spend less time outdoors suffer from what is now widely known as “nature deficit disorder,” which results in behavioral problems. What can we do to address these negative health trends? One solution that has been proven to be effective in mitigating the negative outcomes of nature deficit disorder is engaging kids in gardening at school through school gardens. At SFC, we can attest to the array of positive benefits of learning outdoors in a school garden.
School gardens are filled with potential for teaching students the benefits of eating healthy food and spending time in nature. These gardens can cultivate healthy lifestyles in youth and increase appreciation for the environment. It’s possible to teach a wide variety of curriculum for all age and grade levels in the garden – learning literally comes to life outdoors! Gardens serve as a practical outdoor lab for hands-on learning, and schools around the nation are seeing how school gardens can improve test scores – especially in the sciences.
Starting a school garden is exciting but can also be overwhelming! We suggest the following 10 steps to starting a school garden. They may follow a different order according to your garden site and context, but with careful planning, the school garden will be sustained for years to come.
1. Organize a meeting of interested diverse stakeholders
2. Approach school administration for approval
3. Form a garden team and create a garden plan
4. Identify all your resources and assets
5. Choose a site and design the garden
6. Plan and organize use of the garden
7. Manage and maintain the garden together
8. Communicate and stay in touch in a variety of ways
9. Fundraise and engage the school and community
10. Take time to evaluate and celebrate
If you would like to dig deeper into these and other steps and find out more about how to start (or revive) and sustain a school garden, register for our upcoming School Garden Leadership Training on September 19 & 20 at SFC. Teacher, parents, staff, and community members are welcome! Teams of 2-3 are encouraged to register.