Why a school garden?
School gardens provide hands-on learning in a wide variety of disciplines including science, math, language arts, and visual arts. Being involved in school gardens gets students active, engaged, and teaches them important life skills such as responsibility. School gardening of fruits and vegetables also positively influences students’ health and nutrition attitudes and actions. School gardens also:
- Increase science achievement scores.
- Improve social skills and behavior.
- Improve environmental attitudes and stewardship.
- Instill a love and appreciation of nature.
- Improve life skills such as responsibility and teamwork.
- Instill healthy eating habits and attitudes.
- Improve health and nutrition knowledge.
- Provide wonderful opportunities for hands-on learning.
- Increase physical activity.
Do you want to get started? Read below for how you can get your school garden started today!
The first step in starting a school garden is to get support from the school district, administrators, and community. Some things to include in your proposal are: case studies of other school gardens, benefits, and funding sources/ideas.
Learn about the 2020-launched Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition. Phase 2 of this project involves one licensed center and three child development homes engaging in developing a site-base, 5-year plan, expanding partnerships, and learning about local food systems. Learn more at the Iowa Farm to School & Early Care Network site.
Get your community involved. Community involvement fosters ownership of the school garden and will lead to better and continued support.
- Contact local businesses for donations of money or supplies.
- Host a bake sale or other fundraiser.
- Ask your local greenhouse for plant or seed donations.
- Look for and apply for grants.
Create a garden design and plan for your school garden. Ask a local master gardeners club, parents, or other knowledgeable community members for help with the design and plan. Involve faculty, and students in the planning process. Vote on themes, plants, colors, etc. The more the faculty and students are involved the more it will truly feel like their garden!
School gardens can be very simple, from a few containers of vegetables in a school courtyard, to elaborate raised beds that stretch around a schoolyard. When designing keep in mind what your school can handle, the money available or raised, and the ability of the school and volunteers to maintain it. Check out this PDF from the National Farm to School Network for information to help you get started!
After you have support, funding, and a plan it is time to start creating your garden!! Organize work days for faculty, students, and volunteers to work on the school garden. Work days can be during school hours, after hours, and even on a weekend day. Assign classes or grades age appropriate jobs. All ages can help and will enjoy being involved in the process!
Congratulations you now have a school garden! There are many wonderful cross-curricular learning opportunities that your new school garden can provide you. School gardens are wonderful places to study insects, plant growth, rainfall, and much more. They can be a beautiful setting for drawing, painting, and writing. The sky really is the limit!
Remember to have a plan for maintenance of your school garden. Assign daily, weekly, monthly, and/or yearly maintenance activities to grades, faculty, or community and parent volunteers. Or plan school garden work days for maintenance. Make a plan for the maintenance of your school garden that works best for your school and community. Remember to arrange a plan for the summer months as well.
- Iowa Department of Education: Farm to School
- Iowa Farm to School Network
- Starting a Garden – a list of resources / links from Illinois Extension
- Kids Gardening (The National Gardening Association)
- Got Dirt? A Garden Toolkit for Implementing Youth Gardens
- Got Veggies? A Youth Garden-Based Nutrition Education Curriculum
- Starting and Maintaining a School Garden (PDF)
- Schoolyard Habitats (USFWS)
- School Gardens: Using Gardens to Grow Healthy Habits in Cafeterias, Classrooms, and Communities (PDF)
Looking for other resources, remember to visit our WILD Resources section of our website!