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.
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!
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