School gardens have existed in America since the early 1900s. Community and school gardens were originally created to help foster moral and social skills in children who used the gardens. Maria Montessori—one of the first educators to document the benefits of school gardening—believed that children working in a garden would gain both a moral education and an appreciation of nature.
Opportunities for Growth & Interaction
School gardens provide opportunities for students, teachers, and even members of the community to interact. This interaction may help improve interpersonal social skills and can teach students how to work cooperatively with each other and their elders.
By caring for a garden, students learn responsibility, patience, and pride in their work and surroundings. Children can also develop their creativity
A school garden allows students to work in a non-threatening outdoor environment where they can interact and learn about nature.
Some studies show that students who are allowed to learn in an outdoor environment such as a garden have improved environmental attitudes.
Practical Application of Other Subjects
Teachers throughout the country are discovering how useful and educational gardens can be. A school garden can be used as a teaching resource for practically every subject covered in an elementary school classroom.
Gardens are perfect places for students to learn about plants, insects, weather, and other science-related topics.
Math lessons—such as measuring, addition, and subtraction—have real-world applications in the garden.
Gardens can also be used to teach social studies. For instance, students learn about where their own food comes from, as well as how other cultures grow and eat their own food.
The school garden is a canvas of art created by nature, giving students inspiration to create their own works of art. The list of applicable art subjects and creative possibilities of the garden is endless.
Maintaining a school garden does not have to become an overwhelming task. You can distribute the care of the garden to many students, which will allow them to get involved and learn responsibility.
Feelings of ownership and pride are necessary for students to care for the garden. As new students work in the garden, they can add their own creativity and individuality. Being involved will help them feel that the garden is theirs.
For information on preparing for a school garden see the Florida Master Gardener article "Back-to-School (Gardens) Shopping List." Consider having students contribute by bringing in needed garden items.
First, determine a budget for the garden, taking into account the cost of supplies such as soil, plants, fertilizers, garden tools, educational supplements, and other miscellaneous items. Once you have a budget, funding can come from a variety of sources:
- Schools may have already budgeted for a garden project and are more likely to provide funding if the garden is shown to be an educational tool and classroom asset.
- Parent/teacher organizations may have funds to offer, or they may be willing to host a fundraiser.
- Local businesses such as garden and landscaping centers might donate plants and soil or offer expert advice. Other businesses may be willing to help sponsor a garden project.
- Garden clubs may be able to offer monetary support and volunteer assistance, which comes with added garden skills and practical knowledge.
- Local service organizations may help with financial support.
- County Extension offices may be able to provide help with funding and expert advice from agents and Master Gardener volunteers. The local office is also an excellent place to find area-specific information about starting a garden.
For more information, visit the School Gardens section of the Florida School Garden Competition website.
Visit the FSGC Website
Related Sites & Articles
- UF/IFAS Publications
- Back-to-School (Gardens) Shopping List
- Sensory Gardens
- Starting a Community Garden
- UF/IFAS Sites
- Center for Landscape Ecology & Conservation (CLEC)
- Environmental Horticulture Department
- Gardening in a Minute
- Other Sites & Publications
- Junior Master Gardener Program
- Youth Gardening—American Horticultural Society
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