Growing Partnerships

By Eve Pranis

Garden Club, Garden Club, How nice you are. Planting near and planting far. Digging, gardening, putting in seeds, Earth saving -- a very big deed.

Throughout the country, exciting partnerships continue to grow between gardening classrooms and individuals, organizations, and businesses wishing to support garden-based learning. In Indianapolis, the Garden Project of the local Cooperative Extension applied for a Chapter 2 grant to build 50 GrowLab Indoor Gardens. A high-school industrial arts class, built the gardens, and Extension helped train elementary teachers and regularly visit classrooms to do special activities. Parent/Teacher Organizations through the country are providing funds to purchase indoor gardens and materials.

The possibilities are endless. These types of partnerships not only help financially, but offer a great opportunity for an exchange between generations, fresh classroom ideas and community understanding of school needs. Some of the groups to consider approaching for gardening program assistance include:

Garden Clubs -- Local garden club chapters may be willing to provide funds for the purchase of indoor gardens or materials, or conduct special classroom projects or activities. Consider appealing to a local group to "adopt" your classroom.

Cooperative Extension -- The Cooperative Extension Service, in nearly every county in the country, has a wealth of written horticultural information and advice. Many Ex tension offices have Master Gardener programs to train community members in horticulture who, in turn, are required to volunteer in the community or schools. 4-H leaders, representing the youth arm of Cooperative Extension can also be good support for the school gardening programs.

Parent/Teacher Organizations -- Don't overlook your Parent/Teacher Organizations vital link to the classroom. Most school PTO's are committed to raising money to support school programs. PTO's are often eager to locate innovative programs and to find projects in which to involve parent volunteers.

Botanical Gardens, Arboreta, Environmental Centers, Science Museums -- Many of these types of organizations have educational programs and materials that can support indoor gardening efforts. Some provide teacher training. gardening materials and indoor garden unit loans to interested teachers. Check with such groups in your area to find out what garden-based educational materials they have, and to let them know about GrowLab Program.

Local Businesses (nurseries, garden centers, hardware stores, etc.) -- Don't be shy about approaching local businesses to donate materials or volunteer time in your school gardening program. Contributing to local education by supporting a school gardening program can be a good community service, an investment in future consumers, and an effective advertisement. Garden centers, nurseries, and variety stores often have a surplus of seeds and garden supplies to clear out toward the end of the season, just when your school garden is beginning to sprout.

Large local businesses may offer grants to teachers to purchase special science programs or equipment. Some have established business-school partnerships in which employees volunteer time in classrooms. Utility companies in Vermont, concerned about energy conservation, have initiated GrowLab Grants Programs. We'd be glad to supplement your efforts by sending materials to help your "state the case" for indoor gardening and by helping large businesses develop programs to support multi-classroom GrowLab efforts.

Other Potential Partners -- We've also heard of successful partnerships between gardening classrooms and the following types of groups:

* Public Education Funds

* School Science Clubs

* Community Gardening Groups

* City Departments (e.g., soil and water conservation, landscaping)

* Service Clubs (e.g., Kiwanis)

* Local Church Groups

* Universities

* Future Farmers of America (FFA)

* Industrial Arts Classes (for building indoor gardens)

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