How Do School Gardens Need Our Help?

Alice Waters gets a lot of buzz about her Edible Schoolyards initiative, and Michelle Obama has certainly amped up awareness about school gardens. But we all know that this story, by a teacher, Sarah Bernardi, at the school affiliated with the First Garden, reflects the experience of most American school veg beds.

As one of the teachers involved with Michelle Obama and the White House vegetable garden, I’ve been impressed with the sudden surge of public interest in the simple act of children planting seeds. At Bancroft Elementary School, where I work first and foremost as an art teacher, we know only too well the benefits children get from growing their own food.

But I don’t think the public has any inkling how hard it is for teachers to maintain school gardens like the one we have at Bancroft. Despite all the hoopla over school gardening, the truth is teachers engage in these activities at risk of their jobs. You see, gardening is not part of the mandated school curriculum. We are supposed to be teaching reading and math. As much as we believe school gardens offer a multitude of teaching opportunities, schools do very little to support us. Principals and teachers have been bluntly told that they will lose their jobs if math and reading scores don’t improve. We desperately need help. We need someone to take charge of our school gardens. [More]

I’ve never worked on a school garden myself, but I have helped lead an initiative to establish a nature trail. From that I learned the hard way firsthand that while a great idea may attract the troops, it won’t always keep them motivated and committed.

So, if you are an active school garden supporter, tell us what you’ve learned about the obstacles to success. Feel free to share tips, strategies, and resources (books, links, etc.). And we’d especially love to hear how people unaffiliated with schools can pitch in! (You may respond via comments or on Twitter.)

Explore More:
Edible Schoolyards
Gardens for Learning (from California School Garden Network)
School Gardens (via City Farmer)
The Dinner Garden (provides free seeds)