How to choose the members of the Garden Committee and what role does the Committee play?
It is valuable to have committee members who are not only enthusiastic about the project but can donate their skills. For instance, having a landscape architect as a committee member would be instrumental in the design of the garden. Other valuable peoples include master gardeners, architects, and local business people. In the end the most important qualification is that the people on the committee must want to be a part of the project and are excited about the possibilities that a garden can bring. Many schools have taken the view that if a person is enthusiastic and want to be a part of the project then they are on the committee.
How do you present the garden project to faculty and parents in order to gain momentum and support?
One of the most important steps to gaining momentum and support is to have a comprehensive master plan of the garden. Many schools found it helpful to have graphic illustrations and/or renderings of the garden. Once a master plan is created, presentations should be given to multiple shareholders including the PTA, various alumni, neighborhood councils, and faculty members.
FOR INSTANCE – At Carthay Center Elementary School the committee came up with a questionnaire that included graphics of proposed design concepts. The questionnaire asked for design and usage suggestions. Carthay found this as a great way to gain support from teachers and parents. By including as many as possible in the process, the Carthay garden committee found broad support for the project.
What is the role of the school principal in the success of any garden project?
Everything runs through the principal. If the principal is not on your side, the garden can’t exist. The support and enthusiasm of the principal can open many doors and help secure assistance from a broad range of individuals and organizations.
How do you fund the school’s garden project?
There are a variety of ways to fund the development of school gardens from grants to private donations. Many cities provide grant opportunities for beautification purposes. While these grants rely on matching funds to be raised, these matching funds can often be met through in-kind donations or volunteer service.
Grants are not the only way to successfully develop a school garden. Monies can be raised through neighborhood councils and associations, school and community fundraisers, local businesses and private donors.
Brainstorm with your garden committee to create a list of local businesses or individuals who may be interested in having their name attached to the project. For instance, your local nursery or garden store may be interested in funding or providing in-kind donations in exchange for naming rights.
What are the greatest hurdles that must be overcome when creating and maintaining a school garden?
One very difficult task is to convince faculty and staff that a garden is valuable and can provide a credible educational experience for the students. When evaluating a school’s needs, it is easy for some to put a school garden at the bottom of the priority list, or to underestimate its value. One school that we’ve worked with noted that it’s hard to “convince people that children need “ecological addresses” to become aware, responsible, joyous participants in the world. They need to know where their water comes from, how their food is grown, how their actions can effect the world they live in.”
Another concern of faculty, staff, and school district is that a garden will result in more work for an already overtaxed staff. For a garden to be successful, a committed group is needed. Individuals in the group must be reliable and must be able to follow through on projects without leaving work for the school district. A clear plan of action delineating responsibilities and schedules must be created and adhered to for a garden to thrive.
FOR INSTANCE – Westminster Avenue Elementary School assigns the garden committee to deal with maintenance and upkeep issues. Some parents handle irrigation issues in the garden, several community volunteers water campus trees on a weekly basis, and another committee member is in charge of garden outreach and building relationships for the garden’s benefit.
How do you keep the community involved and active in the garden once it’s completed?
All of the schools found that events were a vital way of keeping the community involved and excited about the garden. Whether it’s an Earth Day celebration, a back to school night, or a once a month gardening day, it’s important to get people in the garden in order to keep the support from waning.
Awareness of the program also grows from the way children respond to the garden. The best publicity tools are children excited about what they did that day in the garden and the stories they recount to their parents.
There is no wrong way to keep the garden at the forefront of the community’s thoughts. Send flowers to local businesses or send fruits and vegetables home with teachers or others in the neighborhood.
What type of maintenance does a garden require? Who carries it out?
The major maintenance requirements of a school garden are watering, pruning, weeding, mulching and clean-up. While students can contribute to the overall maintenance, most of the major maintenance projects are carried out on weekend community workdays.
How can the garden be incorporated into the school curriculum?
The garden can be incorporated into the curriculum of just about any subject, from math to science, social studies to history, the limitations are only your imagination. In addition, nutritional habits benefit as well. Studies have shown that children that grow vegetables in an edible garden are more likely to eat vegetables at home.
FOR INSTANCE – Carthay Center Elementary School has full participation of all teachers in garden-based science learning. The school has hired a science teacher to instruct the teachers on how to use the garden as a living laboratory in which to teach science.
From initial conception to completion of the garden, how long did the process take?
The process of building a school garden can take anywhere from two years to upwards of a decade. One way to look at it is that the garden is never completed; it is constantly growing and changing as needs and wants arise. The important thing is that a plan is created and that the committee is flexible in overcoming any hurdles that may arise.