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Growing School Gardens: A Virtual Tour

Children's hands, made into fists, piled in the center of a circle, showing their tape bracelets that have flowers and other garden things attached to themPicture your school garden — or any garden — in your head. What's your favorite fruit or vegetable to grow or eat? 

"Arugula." says Tristana Pirkl, program manager of the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network. “Everything tastes better with the best, freshest ingredients. It also tastes better when love, time and attention has gone into preparing the dish and growing the ingredients yourself."

Across the country, "love, time, and attention" are being put into school gardens that grow more than just fresh veggies. These gardens are growing the next generation of environmental stewards, leaders, and consumers. Last spring, we took a tour of seven gardens across the country during the Growing School Gardens Virtual Tour. Created by the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation in partnership with SGSO, the 28-minute video showcases seven school gardens that will leave both educators and students inspired — and hankering for a fresh-picked snack. 

Here's a sampling of what you'll find in the video, which documents this first-ever nationwide school garden event. 

Māla`ai Garden

The tour starts at Māla`ai Garden at Waimea Middle School on the Big Island of Hawai’i, where we practice Kilo, a deep observation practice of your external and internal environment. This simple yet profound practice is beneficial for anyone, but is especially helpful to kids to help them pause during their overbooked, electronics-filled lives. During Kilo, we use all our senses to perceive the beauty, wonder, and life-giving nourishment of the garden. 

"I feel relaxed, and all my worries are gone. I can hear the birds, I can hear the wind, I can hear everything," says Rene, a 6th grade student gardener.

See for yourself! Take two minutes to step outside, take a deep inhale and exhale, and ‘E kilo ‘oe

Radcliff Elementary School Garden

After taking in the island vibes, the video tour takes us to Watsonville, California, original homeland of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Educators at the school garden lead students in social-emotional games, nature exploration and garden activities. 

Another favorite activity is making nature tape bracelets by wrapping a piece of tape sticky side out and applying flowers and foliage — even small rocks and soil. So fun!

Harvest the Sun Twice Garden

Next stop — Tucson, Arizona, my favorite garden on the tour. Located at Manzo Elementary in the Sonoran Desert, this garden is an agrivoltaic project, which means that the same land is used for both solar panels and agriculture. (Agriculture + photovoltaic = agrivoltaic.) 

Why the name "Harvest the Sun Twice Garden?" Because plants harvest the sun through photosynthesis, and the solar panels harvest the sun to produce energy!

Life Lessons from the Garden

“Things change all the time...not everything is going to stay the same,” says Jada, a student at Lake Middle School in Denver, Colorado, who shares about learning from the ebbs and flows of plants — and of life. 

Like an ever-evolving garden that weathers each storm, the challenges of the pandemic over the last year have been a lesson in resilience, adaptability, and strength. This event and video beautifully illustrate how we can use virtual learning to plant seeds of inspiration, get outdoors, and build community where we live. 

The opportunity to show other habitats and environments that are similar to ours as well as totally different made an impact on how students view the growth processes that are local to them,” said Abby House, a K-8 SpEd Learning Support Teacher who showed the video to her students at Mastery Charter in New Jersey. 

If these stories haven't quite convinced you to join the school garden community, remember that school gardens can be used for multidisciplinary and STEM learning too! 

Be sure to check out the other activities shared in the video:

  • Recipes for Aguas Frescas - Jamie Davis, PhD, Professor of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Texas in Austin
  • What does a seed mean to you? Writing Prompt - Woodlawn High School - Birmingham, AL
  • Make a Flying Seed Model Activity and Video - Whittier Elementary - Washington, D.C.

Watch the video and check out the accompanying resources on the Growing School Gardens website