Can you dig it?
School gardens are a great way to use the outdoors as a classroom. Schools across Virginia are using gardens to link students with the science of growing plants, helping them to discover where food comes from and to develop healthy eating habits. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake is important for good nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. When children spend energy and time growing their own vegetables, they are more likely to eat what they grow.
School gardens help students:
Why plant a garden?
“If we want people to make the healthy choices; the healthy choices have to be there” -HBO’s The Weight of the Nation documentary
- Reconnect with the natural world
- Expand knowledge of the true source of food
- Integrate curriculums with other subjects and topics
- Build student confidence and pride
- Teach responsibility
- Engage by using the schoolyard as a classroom
How to Start a School Garden
A great school garden is nearby so students can get to it easily from the school and the garden’s water source. Also, the garden should get 6-10 hours of sunshine every day, so make sure your garden is not in an area that never gets sun!
Collaboration is key! Gather a small group of administrators, parents, teachers, the local school health advisory board and especially students to help design the garden, its contents and the budget going towards the effort. The planting and all of the dirty work can be shared with everyone else after the garden has been planned out beforehand. When planting, have plenty of trowels, watering cans and garden tools so students can help!
Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is a statewide educational program that provides teachers with resources and lesson plans with activities and handouts, all related to agricultural topics and links to the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL).
There are many things to consider before creating a school garden. One important step in starting a garden is to outline how the garden will be used. Determine the goals and reasons for building the garden. That’s important if the garden is to be successful and will help guide what types of crops will be planted.
Pick vegetables according to the season you will be planting. To get tips from experts on each vegetable’s water, soil and sun preferences and best time to plant them, visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension website.