Resources for Garden Educators

resources for garden educators

In last week’s blog Sarah spotlighted the incredible work that the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network has done to support the continuation of youth garden activities during COVID-19. Beyond their special COVID-19 resource page, the network is hosting weekly gatherings that allow folks to share ideas and best practices on topics ranging from remote learning to organizational resiliency. I’ve really enjoyed tuning into these gatherings and hearing about the creative ways folks are responding to school closures, stay-at-home orders, and physical distancing protocols. 

Participating in these virtual gatherings has also prompted me to think about other opportunities for remote information sharing, learning, and professional development. Here some ongoing and upcoming webinars and online classes that might be of interest to other garden-based educators:

  • SGSO’s archived webinars: Fellow KidsGardening Educational Specialist Sarah Pounders and I have participated in some of the SGSO Network’s previous webinars. Beyond this extensive list of recordings that cover everything from best practices for crowdfunding to school and community farm stands, the network also lists webinars from a number of like organizations including the National Farm to School Network and the Whole Kids Foundation. SGSO’s COVID-19 related Virtual Gatherings can also be accessed via link on this page.
  • Prescott College’s Food Systems Friday: If you’re interested in how the food system is being affected by COVID-19 this is the webinar for you. Addressing topics from food security to culinary education, this weekly series brings in experts from the field to share their experiences and insights (Episode 4 on School and Community Garden features yours truly). While it’s a fun listen in and of itself, it could also be a useful resource and potential topic of discussion for high school culinary and ag classes. 
  • PennState Extension’s Victory Garden Reinvented!: Penn State Extension’s Master Gardener Program has been hosting a free webinar series that provides recommendations for vegetable growers (think succession planting and integrated pest management). Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just getting started, these weekly hour-long classes are great for deepening your planting knowledge. Your state’s Extension Program might be offering their own programming, so be sure to see what’s available locally to get the most relevant information for your growing climate.
  • Teaching in Nature’s Classroom: Our friends at Life Lab, the Wisconsin School Garden Network, and Rooted are teaming up to bring you a 15-week self-guided course on approaches to garden-based education. This seems like a great opportunity for folks interested in reflecting on their teaching practices and taking their school garden program to the next level. Definitely take a look at this one and sign-up before the class is full.

Gardening Together – Sharing Teaching Resources

sharing

Over the last few weeks, we have shared some of our favorite, easy KG activities to do at home and some of the resources from partner organizations we are relying on for inspiration right now, but this week I am excited to share a brand new resource created by the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network to help youth garden educators across the country share their best lessons, activity ideas and garden tips for students, teachers and families that have been crafted specifically to provide support during these ever-changing times.

The SGSO Network has launched a special COVID-19 resource page where you can discover a database of distance teaching resources, find entry into a very active online forum, and take advantage of opportunities to register for weekly virtual gatherings for live sharing of ideas. Topics of focus include:

  • Distance Teaching/Learning Resources
  • Garden Care and Management During COVID-19
  • Maintaining Fiscal Stability for Your SGSO
  • Running Your SGSO/Supporting Your Staff During COVID-19

A BIG shout out and thank you to our dear friend John Fisher at Life Lab for all of his hard work bringing this amazing resource together!

Although the main focus of the SGSO Network is to support school garden professionals as learning has shifted to homes this spring, amazing garden educators from around the country are quickly adapting their lessons and activities to meet the needs of home gardens and ‘new’ teachers (AKA family members who are so very appreciative of the hard work of our teachers and schools) and making them available for everyone.

The School Garden Distance Teaching Resource Round-Up database offers tons of awesome digital resources from garden tours/plant walks to pre-taped cooking lessons, activities that can be done with minimal, common household items, and fun lessons that won’t have your kids hiding from you. If you have a resource to share, you can submit it via a very simple Google form. The Forum has ideas that range from what to do with gardens that cannot be accessed at this time to policies put in place for gardens that are remaining operational. The Virtual Gatherings join these two resources and give us all the social connection that we need to make it through the physical distancing.

So if you are looking for some resources and inspiration for engaging in garden-based learning at home this spring--- make sure to check out this great new resource.

sharing resources
A preview of the offerings on the SGSO resources page.

Adapting to School Closures

Adapting to school closures

Since news broke that schools in Vermont would remain closed for the duration of the academic year, many of the Burlington School District teachers I work with have been wondering what to do about our growing spaces. Do we scrap school gardens for the year or do we adapt to our new circumstances? 

The Burlington School Food Project, our district’s food service department and Farm to School program, is committed to seeing our growing season through. While we’ve all but decided to cancel our student-led Fork in the Road food truck program for the summer, we are moving forward to growing seedlings in our greenhouse and hope to ramp up production in our larger gardens this summer so that we can provide produce to students and their families during this unprecedented time. 

Some of our elementary school gardens are looking to take a similar approach while other programs are still up in the air, with teachers waiting until mid to late May to make decisions about how they will proceed. Many of our schools have the flexibility of waiting over a month to figure out their plans—we usually don’t start planting outdoors until closer to the end of the school year anyway due to Vermont’s often chilly spring weather and schools know they’ll have starts and seeds ready for them through the Burlington School Food Project. If schools end up deciding they don’t want to plant the seedlings we’ve been growing for them in our district greenhouse, then we’ll donate these plants to the community. 

adapting to school closuresIn the meantime, we’ll continue watering our plants and prepping our production growing spaces. But the Burlington School Food Project is doing more than just thinking about school gardens, like many other child nutrition programs across the country, we’re working hard to provide meals to students at feeding sites set up across the city. Over a two week period our team served over 10,000 free meals (our school district is approximately 3,500 students and not everyone elects to participate in our school meal program) and donated a considerable amount of perishable product from our school kitchens to local food banks.

The Burlington School Food Project will continue to serve meals for the remainder of the academic year, even during school breaks, before transitioning to our summer feeding program. As previously mentioned, our goal is to make garden-grown produce available to families at our meal distribution sites. Until the time that produce is ready to be harvested, we’ll be piloting a seed distribution program in partnership with Vermont Community Garden Network and the Vermont Farm to School Network.

Garden Together At Home

Garden Together At Home

April is Kids Garden Month! This year we're inviting you to share how you #GardenTogetherAtHome. You don't need a garden to participate. Just share how you're bringing gardening into your at-home life, from reading about or drawing gardens, to planting seeds, or sharing garden-related lessons with your students. As always with Kids Garden Month, creativity is encouraged!

We invite you to use Kids Garden Month as an opportunity for all of you, who love gardening with kids, to share the fun things you're up to, as well as get ideas from one another. You can follow along with the hashtag #GardenTogetherAtHome on Instagram, or check out the awesome gallery of entries. (You can read the entry description by clicking on the image.) We have already gotten so many great entries!

As incentive to join in, we're giving away lots of prizes this year. You can win an AcuRite weather station, hand tools from Corona tools, seeds from Botanical Interest, or a seed starting kit from CowPots! Winners will be selected randomly from eligible entries at the time of the drawing. Prize drawings will be held on April 7, April 14, April 21, April 28, and May 5. While multiple entries per family or educator are allowed and encouraged, once you have won a prize you will not be eligible for future prizes.

Learn more about our Kids Garden Month contest. We can't wait to see how you #GardenTogetherAtHome.