Planning Sustainable School Gardens: Introduction

By Rory Klick, March 10, 2005

There are quality curricula for all ages and all topics, all linked to the standards teachers are required to convey to our children. But how many students read a concept once and have it down? How many students hear a lesson and know the material? How many more need to do, to touch, to experience before an idea takes hold? The school garden offers a place to enrich your teaching efforts with powerful hands-on experiences that make learning come alive.

Developing a school garden is not rocket science, but the exercise does present a certain level of complexity. As simply as I can distill it, it comes down to three main areas: people, place, and plant care.

Planning is the systematic process of working through each of these areas to develop a strategy for making your own school garden function. These gardens must be practical places, and tend to be most successful when designed for clear, functional goals ? not aesthetics. As a designer, I truly believe that beauty happens anyway, but the greatest priority at a school garden is, naturally, education.

Defining the functional goals of your garden is simply stating what you want to teach, but within the garden setting instead of the classroom. School gardens are not just places for plant science and ecology; they are places for art, music, math and creative writing. In the garden we can teach about sharing and teamwork, as well as the interconnected web of life.

So what does this mean to you? If you are just getting started, follow the process as it is laid out in this series. If you already have a garden, this series can help you, too: very few life processes are linear! If you want more teachers and classrooms to take part, or to better address garden maintenance, see where you are in the process, and determine which steps you might have missed and need to go back to.

There are quality curricula for all ages and all topics, all linked to the standards teachers are required to convey to our children. But how many students read a concept once and have it down? How many students hear a lesson and know the material? How many more need to do, to touch, to experience before an idea takes hold? The school garden offers a place to enrich your teaching efforts with powerful hands-on experiences that make learning come alive.

Developing a school garden is not rocket science, but the exercise does present a certain level of complexity. As simply as I can distill it, it comes down to three main areas: people, place, and plant care.

Planning is the systematic process of working through each of these areas to develop a strategy for making your own school garden function. These gardens must be practical places, and tend to be most successful when designed for clear, functional goals ? not aesthetics. As a designer, I truly believe that beauty happens anyway, but the greatest priority at a school garden is, naturally, education.

Defining the functional goals of your garden is simply stating what you want to teach, but within the garden setting instead of the classroom. School gardens are not just places for plant science and ecology; they are places for art, music, math and creative writing. In the garden we can teach about sharing and teamwork, as well as the interconnected web of life.

So what does this mean to you? If you are just getting started, follow the process as it is laid out in this series. If you already have a garden, this series can help you, too: very few life processes are linear! If you want more teachers and classrooms to take part, or to better address garden maintenance, see where you are in the process, and determine which steps you might have missed and need to go back to.

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