Have you ever reflected on an event in your life that, when it happened, seemed relatively small and insignificant but later you realized it changed your life by setting in motion a series of events?
To many of our grantees, receiving a KidsGardening Youth Garden Grant is a similar experience. A catalyst for continued growth and success, the grant is an investment that pays big dividends for years to come.
The outdoor classroom at Harold Martin School in Hopkinton, New Hampshire broke ground on a beautiful day in May. Betsy, one of the garden coordinators, vividly remembers the excitement of watching the first grade students engaged in the garden-building. The students took turns building a stonewall, planting the new butterfly garden, installing a special apple tree bred for New Hampshire’s climate, and creating cement cobbles for the garden path, each decorated with a different child’s handprint.
Planning for the garden began a year before planting day. “Each month, the team—made up of teachers, parents and a representative from the Department of Fish and Game—met to design the project.” The students were also involved in the process to make sure they “understood that the garden was more than the results. We wanted them to learn that building a garden took cooperation and attention to detail.”
The garden plans received a big boost when the school received a Youth Garden Grant from KidsGardening. “Winning the grant brought the ideas off the wish list and into reality,” Betsy recalls. “It galvanized the administration, teachers and most obviously, the kids.” The grant also helped draw in donations from throughout the community and in recognition of their efforts, the school received an award from the State Board of Education and was highlighted in the city’s newspaper.
At first Garden Day seemed to be the grand finale to the all their planning efforts, but as it turns out, it was only the beginning of the story. As Betsy is quick to note, the garden was the start of a much larger journey. “The success of the project was that we kept going towards other equally challenging ideas.”
Inspired by what they accomplished and building on the strong relationships they developed, the team involved in creating the garden continued to actively pursue new science-learning experiences. Through winning the Youth Garden Grant, the students learned that “if you have a good idea and can communicate that idea so that it interests others, you can accomplish your goals.” They used this new knowledge to search their local community and beyond for opportunities. “Many of the children involved have gone on to pursue careers in the field of horticulture and science. One student was inspired to be a florist, another went into the genetics field, and still others pursued careers in environmental design.”
Betsy credits the Youth Garden Grant as an important spark for their fire. “Without the structure of the grant, the committee may have met for a few years...like many projects...slowly running out of steam. But when the grant announcement came...we all united. It all began in the garden, showing us how we could come together and accomplish great things that instigated and gave meaning to classroom topics. It whet our appetites for more, and just like any garden, we kept on growing.”
KidsGardening recently named the 20 winners of the 2017 Youth Garden Grant. The YGG was the first youth garden grant in the nation. Since 1982, KidsGardening has awarded nearly 5500 schools, nonprofits, and youth programs across the United States, contributing over 2.9 million dollars in funding to youth gardening initiatives.