GroPride: Supporting LGBTQ+ youth through gardening

A rainbow Pride flag on a flagpole waves in front of a blue sky. The words "Introducing: GroPride" are placed on top of the flag.

For decades, we’ve seen firsthand how gardens can be inspirational, safe spaces where youth can build community, gain a sense of place and learn skills that will last them a lifetime. We know that gardens are powerful spaces that can bring people together and provide opportunities for education, comfort and growth. That’s why, together with our partner The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, we've designed a program that will help connect more LGBTQ+ youth and allies to the empowering opportunities provided by hands-on garden programming. Our GroPride Garden Grants help provide monetary funding and peer learning opportunities to support the development of new gardens and the expansion of existing gardens that engage LGBTQ+ youth and allies. 

The social and emotional benefits of gardening are particularly relevant to LGBTQ+ youth, who experience higher rates of trauma, stigma, and discrimination than their straight, cis-gender peers. Programs that provide opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to spend more time outdoors, interacting with nature, are well poised to effectively strengthen community, foster empowerment, support positive identity, and address some of the challenges frequently experienced by the LGBTQ+ youth community.

Throughout the winter, we were on the look-out for organizations that are making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. After ongoing discussions, three incredible programs—all of whom expressed a dedication to the creation and expansion of garden-based learning opportunities—rose to the top and were selected as our inaugural GroPride Garden Grant winners. These organizations include:

Dykes with Drills in partnership with the Historic Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center in Lafayette, CA
“The goal of our program will be to teach LGBTQ youth how to safely use power tools to build garden beds and their own garden tool box and how to manage a garden to grow healthy food." – Julie Peri, Founder/Director, Dykes with Drills*

Pride for Youth of the Long Island Crisis Center in Bellmore, NY
"The goals of the gardening program are to promote health and well-being, promote a sense of community, reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression, encourage creativity, encourage mindfulness and mental clarity, teach responsibility, and provide a sense of purpose. Youth will be in charge of the designs in the garden, allowing them space to creatively express their ideas." – Aiden Kaplan, LGBTQ Services Manager, Long Island Crisis Center

The Walla Walla Valley Farm to School Program of the Sustainable Living Center in partnership with Triple Point Walla Walla in Walla Walla, WA
"We seek to gather stakeholder, community, and youth input to establish a sustainable-long term version and school garden support framework for LGBTQIA+ youth. The intention and plan are to engage and empower LGBTQIA+ youth in the planning and building of an accessible, safe garden space." – Rey Cooley, Walla Walla Valley Farm to School Program Manager

And what better time than Pride Month to lift up the incredible work and vision of our GroPride Garden Grantees. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting each of these organizations on social media. We hope you’re just as excited and inspired by their garden projects as we are. 

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The GroPride Garden Grant builds on ScottsMiracle-Gro’s broader GroMoreGood commitment to connect 10 million kids to the benefits of gardening and outdoor play by 2023. Together, KidsGardening and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation award nearly 300 garden grants each year through the GroMoreGood Grassroots Grants Program, and our GroPride Grant is an extension of that program. 

Learn more about our GroMoreGood Grassroots Grants.

*From the Dykes with Drills website: "We call ourselves Dykes With Drills. By using the word “dyke”, we reclaim it from its history of oppression and exclusion. By using drills and other tools, we build communities of diversity and inclusion. Our community includes people of all sexualities and genders, including those who are non-conforming, transgender, and allies."

Kids Love School Gardens

Painting of a garden, with a river in the center

This past April we celebrated Kids Garden Month by asking kids to share what they love about their garden. We had 365 entries in our annual contest and we’re excited to highlight our six school winners, each of whom will receive $500 to fund school garden improvements thanks to the generous sponsorship of Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation and the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network. Each of these programs demonstrate the many incredible ways gardens can be used as an educational tool and the varied impact they can have on youth of all ages. (Meet all of our Kids Garden Month winners.)

Physical Activity and Sensory Engagement

When students at Cyril K Brennan Middle School were asked what they loved about working in the vegetable garden many of them shared that they most enjoyed assorted physical tasks such as planting seeds, picking vegetables, and pulling weeds; as well as feeling the sun on their face and playing with the water in the hose. School gardens can be a fantastic outlet for physical activity and can help students develop both fine and gross motor skills.

Connecting with Nature

Students at Roopville Elementary recorded a series of videos for their Kids Garden month entry. While students share different reasons for loving their school garden, we were particularly drawn to a video snippet in which a student expressed excitement about being able to connect to nature in a safe and welcoming way. For many young learners, especially those in urban environments, school gardens may serve as an introductory experience to the natural world, allowing them to connect with plants, soil, and insects in new and exciting ways.

Culinary Arts and Nutrition Education.

Tracey Magnet school’s entry captures over 100 responses from students about why they love gardening. And it’s no wonder students like their garden so much, when they’re the ones who get to reap the benefits of the harvest—students frequently participate in cooking classes that feature fresh produce straight from the garden. Cooking activities can be a great way to integrate nutrition education and life skills into the school day; they can also serve as an ongoing connection to the garden during the off season.

A collage of garden pictures with the words We Love Our Garden spelled out

Literacy

The garden at West Bloomfield High School is filled with plants from American authors’ homes, bringing literacy connections to life for students. The garden includes mint from Ernest Hemingway’s home in Horton Bay MI, hydrangeas from Kurt Vonnegut’s home in Barnstable, MA, roses from Emily Dickenson’s home in Amherst, MA. and more! Given their garden’s theme and inspired by a recent PBS documentary about Hemingway, members of the high school’s Literacy Club decided to answer the Kids Garden month prompt in the form of six word stories. Themed gardens can be a wonderful way to generate excitement and engagement, while simultaneously connecting to classroom topics or fun learning projects. 

English Language Arts and Community Engagement

Second graders at St. Peter's School demonstrated how gardens can be used as powerful tools for addressing English Language Arts proficiencies—students spent a week working on short handwritten essays about what they love about gardening. While gardens can serve as a jumping off point for reflective writing, they can also inspire writing prompts focused on observation and persuasive writing.

Teacher Helen McKean also shared how extra harvest from the St. Peter’s School garden is frequently donated to a nearby community center that integrates the fresh produce into their free meal distribution offerings, showing how gardens can help facilitate meaningful connections between schools and wider communities.

 

Self-Expression & Stewardship

The 7th graders of Room 706 at Township of Ocean Intermediate School were given the choice of how they wanted to create their Kids Garden Month entries. Some students painted on canvas (one painting is pictured above, in the headline image), some wrote poems and created videos, one student even wrote a song and reordered herself singing it. The diverse ways in which kids created their projects helps to demonstrate how school gardens can be used as safe spaces and important vehicles for self-expression and self-discovery. 

Gardens can also help situate students within their community and place and allow them to engage in empowering stewardship opportunities. With their $500 award, students of Township of Ocean Intermediate School hope to install a rain garden that will help catch stormwater runoff, filter water, and contribute to erosion control. Through the creation of the garden that will help protect nearby watersheds, students will be able to learn about sustainability practices and civic stewardship.

Continue to celebrate school gardens

To learn about other school garden programs and the creative ways they’re engaging students we encourage you to check out the Growing School Gardens coast-to-coast virtual school garden tour!