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Publication #AEC621

Important Resources for the Development and Sustainability of School Garden Programs1

John M. Diaz and Erin Elsberry2

Introduction

With demands for more instructional time in the classroom, teachers have less time to dedicate toward coordinating the school garden and, as a result, require support mechanisms. When surveyed, gardening teachers with adequate support were more enthusiastic about the potential of school gardens than teachers who did not garden or lacked support (Graham & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2005). Extension agents serve as a valuable resource in providing teachers with in-service training and technical education to increase their ability to effectively use gardening as an instructional tool. There are numerous variables that directly affect the success and sustainability of a school garden. Barriers include complexity of school gardens, proficiencies with Florida-specific gardening, and availability of resources and knowledge about garden management. As teachers are already overextended with existing responsibilities, it is important to streamline the process of finding school garden resources. Extension agents can bridge these barriers by assisting in the procurement of appropriate resources, fostering collaborative opportunities, and providing education and technical support. Extension’s vision is to foster enthusiasm among teachers for school garden programs by removing the barriers that impede the use of the school garden as an instructional tool.

This document provides an outline of important resources to help in the development and sustainability of a school garden program. Resource categories include Extension support, garden planning, curricula, and funding.

Extension Support Resources

There are a diverse set of Extension agents that can provide support to your school garden program. The support can range from supplemental education to technical assistance. Table 1 describes the types of available assistance from UF/IFAS Extension faculty and staff.

Table 1. 

Types of Extension resources available to teachers.

Type of Assistance

Appropriate Contacts

Website

Florida-specific gardening educational workshops and technical assistance

Horticulture Agent, Master Gardeners, Horticulture Program Assistant/Coordinators

Local UF/IFAS Extension offices

Garden-based nutrition education

Family Nutrition Program (FNP) Educators

FNP in your county

Florida-specific gardening education and resources (i.e., seeds, transplants, soil)

Family Nutrition Program (FNP) Food Systems Specialists

Farm to School and Community

Garden Planning

Planning a garden is a difficult task. Understanding how to get started provides a solid foundation for a sustainable school garden program. The resources below will help to inform and guide the planning efforts for various school garden programs (Table 2).

Table 2. 

Guides for garden program planning.

Organization

Description

Website

Life Lab

A guide for creating school gardens as outdoor classrooms. The guide is available to download digitally in English or Spanish.

Life Lab

California and Arizona School Garden Networks (CSGN)

The collective school garden network provides an extensive toolkit, including resources for each step of managing your school garden.

CSGN Toolkit

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services—Farm to School

The School Garden Guide—Starting and Sustaining a School Garden in Florida provides a step-by-step process for getting the garden in the ground.

School Garden Guide

School Garden Wizard

The School Garden Wizard website provides a garden planning guide and worksheets.

School Garden Wizard

UF/IFAS Extension Grow to Learn

This accessible format will guide you, step-by-step, through the stages of successful gardening, from shaping your vision of a garden to building, growing, maintaining, and sustaining it for the long-term.

Grow to Learn Guide

Curriculum

School gardening engages students by providing inquiry-based and experiential learning. School gardens serve as a valuable educational tool in science, math, English, reading, art, music, and social studies. Table 3 outlines curricula to promote garden-based educational activities that address a variety of standards.

Table 3. 

Curricula resources for garden-based experiential activities.

Curriculum Name

Description

Website

The Growing Classroom

Cross-mapped activities to relevant Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Math and Language Arts Content Standards (available in English and Spanish)

Life Lab Curricula

The Edible Schoolyard Project

An extensive database to search for lesson plans and garden and kitchen classroom activities. An online library contains 6th, 7th, and 8th grade garden and kitchen lessons.

Edible Schoolyard Resources

Learn, Grow, Eat, Go

An interdisciplinary program that combines academic achievement, gardening, nutrient-dense food experiences, physical activity, and school and family engagement.

Learn, Grow, Eat, Go

Harvest of the Month

A collection of instructional materials highlighting a different Florida fruit or vegetable that is in season during that month.

Harvest of the Month

Gardening for Grades

An online teacher resource center. Curriculum resources include Gardening for Grades, hands-on lessons correlated to education standards.

Gardening for Grades

Gardening for Nutrition

A comprehensive guide for Florida educators designed to teach health, science, language arts, math, and more using a school garden.

Gardening for Nutrition

Funding

While lack of funds is often sighted as a barrier to school garden programs, there are in fact several grant opportunities available. There are a range of opportunities that provide financial resources for garden materials, education, and other supplies. Table 4 outlines some of the opportunities that can be leveraged for a school garden program.

Table 4. 

Grant opportunities that support school gardens.

Funding Organization

Description

Website

Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) Splash Grant

Provides up to $3000 per school to enhance student knowledge of water resource issues.

SWFWMD

Florida Ag in the Classroom

Teachers are eligible to apply for $500 mini grants, which are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

FAITC Mini-grants

Whole Kids Foundation

The school garden grant provides $2000 to support a new or existing edible garden on campus.

School Garden Grant Program

Annie’s Grant for Gardens

Proposed projects must be an edible school garden.

Grants for Gardens

Bonnie Plants

Third grade teachers can register to receive free cabbage transplants.

Bonnie Cabbage Program

Fiskars- Project Orange Thumb

The grant provides tools and resources to help communities reach their goals for collaboration, neighborhood beautification, and healthy, sustainable food sources.

Project Orange Thumb

Scott’s Miracle Gro Grants

The grant provides up to $1,500 for community garden projects, including school gardens.

Scotts Miracle Gro

Lowe’s Small Toolbox for Education

The Lowe’s Small Toolbox for Education grant provides up to $5000.

Lowe's Toolbox

The Donald Samull Classroom Herb Garden Grant

Public and/or private 3rd through 6th grade teachers, with classes of a minimum of fifteen (15) students may apply for a $200 herb garden grant.

Herb Society

Seeds of Change

To have your organization considered for this program, you must first apply. The award process includes a public voting forum.

Seeds of Change

American Academy of Dermatology

Grants up to $8,000 are available to public schools for installing permanent shade structures for outdoor locations that are not protected from the sun.

AAD Shade Structure

Reference

Graham, H., & Zidenberg-Cherr, S. (2005). California teachers perceive school gardens as an effective nutritional tool to promote healthful eating habits. Journal of the American Dietetic Association105(11), 1797–1800.

Footnotes

1.

This document is AEC621, one of a series of the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2017. RVisit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

John M. Diaz, assistant professor and Extension specialist, Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611; and Erin Elsberry, School Gardens Program Regional Specialized Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Polk County, Bartow, FL 33830.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.