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Teaching Teachers: How to Use the Garden as a Classroom

Spring has finally arrived, witch means its time to return to our school gardens. Making a school garden successful goes far beyond installing a few raised beds. Gardening can be challenging. It’s not always clear what to plant or when and knowing what type of care plants need can seem like a mystery.

School gardens offer their own set of unique challenges. First off, New Jersey’s growing season doesn’t quite align with the school year, so it’s essential to know which plants will grow best while school is in session. Likewise, figuring out how to keep 25 kids engaged in an activity while trying to create lessons that enhance what is being taught in the classroom can feel impossible. Nevertheless, the social and emotional benefits school gardens offer students significantly outweigh the challenges, making all the extra effort worthwhile.

To support our school garden educators in making their gardens a success, Isles hosted a workshop on integrating gardens into the school community. Trenton school teachers, master gardeners, and community members came together to learn about topics ranging from plant selection and care to outdoor classroom management. We shared techniques for keeping kids engaged, discussed how to develop lessons that link directly to the curriculum, and brainstormed about how to make gardens more sustainable.

There was also plenty of space for participants to learn from each other. Together we worked though challenges and shared some of our favorite and most successful activities, which included plant part yoga, garden haikus, and learning to count by fives using flower petals.

Our participants left this workshop with not only new ideas and knowledge but also with a new network of other garden educators that they can lean on for support. We know they returned to their school reenergized and ready to get their hands dirty.

About the Grantee

Isles Inc.

Founded in 1981, Isles, Inc. is a community development and environmental organization based in Trenton, New Jersey. With a mission to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities, we design and develop effective services that support this mission and share what we learn with others who can make a difference.

Strategy: School Fruit & Vegetable Gardens

Cohort: Central 1

Funder: SNAP-Ed

Cities: Trenton