Our Guiding Philosophy

Garden-based learning can spark a child’s imagination by making academic topics leap to life. It can also provide a subtle and profound understanding about nature and our place in the world. We want our children to be curious, enthusiastic life-long learners, and garden-based learning is an important means to that end. Each child is encouraged to think of the school garden as his or hers, and to view it as a special place of learning.

Best learning outcomes in Garden of Learning Program

Experiential learning. Whatever the subject, it comes to life in the hands-on environment of a school garden.
Cause-and-effect. Students come to see the relationship between effort and reward. The harder they work, the more beautiful is their garden. They also get to see that problems can be solved with perseverance; if a snowfall comes and destroys your lettuce, that’s not a permanent failure; you rip it out, put it in the compost bin and plant again, perhaps with more mulch this time.
Nurturing. Over the last decade, we have found that sometimes the most troubled children are the ones who find the most solace, the greatest inspiration, in the garden. Often times, those students who really cannot sit still and get through their work in class are completely engaged in the garden, focusing both on their tasks and the natural world around them. It is a wonderful thing to watch a child who suffers from a lack of focus and a tendency to disrupt in the classroom go outside to the garden and work with focus and enthusiasm. It is as if by tending and caring for a tiny plant, they themselves are nurtured.

Basic education contributes to Garden of Learning 

Garden of Learning takes the basic course work being taught in the classroom and expounds upon it. Students reinforce their math lessons, for example, by using the seeds of sunflowers they grew themselves to practice counting, sorting, multiplying, dividing and estimating. They reinforce their writing skills by keeping weekly garden journals, for instance, or by building a scarecrow and then writing a story that imagines what might happen if their scarecrow came to life and followed them back into the classroom. They learn about the scientific method in class, and then put it to use in a garden exercise that introduces them to the concept of a food chain. Basic education provides many of the themes for activities that take place in the garden.

Final Thought

A really good garden program can benefit the children who participate in a lot of ways: It can foster a sense of ownership and pride in their school. It can provide a focus for learning that engages all of a child’s learning styles. It sparks their imaginations and gives them practical applications for what they can learn in the classroom. It can help develop a true cooperative spirit as children work together toward a common goal. They are taught the value of effort, discipline and team work. They learn that private people must form a community to care for public resources. They learn that no failures are permanent; if a crop fails you rip it out and plant again. They learn about nutrition and where their food comes from, and their roles as stewards. When they raise and sell a crop, they see how the economy works. They learn to focus on a task until it is complete and to have pride in their accomplishments. And for certain children, it can provide a much-needed understanding of what nurturing means; for some, it seems that in the process of protecting and nurturing a garden, they are themselves nurtured.
More and more educators are coming to understand just how wonderful — and important — a school garden can be. I believe with proper coordination and planning, outstanding school garden programs can be developed and sustained to become a long-term part of a school’s culture.
In this age of fast-moving technology and virtual knowledge, kids need to get their hands in the dirt. They need to be grounded, you might say, and taught the ways of nature. Regular work in their own garden can provide a respite from the hubbub of busy school life, allowing children to focus on an ancient human task in a smaller, quieter setting. It provides children with a profound and lasting sense of the majesty of nature — and in understanding that, a reverence for the sanctity of life.

A word from Kelli

School gardens are a wonderful and important way to educate our children and now in our busy fast-paced world more than ever they can have a profound effect on our children’s lives. I know this in my heart and because you’re reading this I think you know it too. As much as I know that school garden can be wonderful I also know they can be tricky and downright difficult. It isn’t as easy as planting petunias. It isn’t an easy thing to do. But it is so, so worth doing.

As much as I know that school garden can be wonderful I also know they can be tricky and downright difficult. It isn’t as easy as planting petunias. It isn’t an easy thing to do. But it is so, so worth doing. Garden of Learning helps elementary schools establish sustainable school garden programs. We provide schools with a detailed system for organizing and operating a school wide garden and a curriculum.

Once your program is up and running, each school is able to put its own twist on the program. The key is to provide a structure, a framework that is sustainable. The most important lesson learned when beginning a school garden program is that having a system for organizing it is as important as the soil, water and sunshine will be to your plants. With several hundred different grade level students visiting the garden each week to participate in a standards based lesson plan. Running a school-wide garden program can be very complex.

A school garden program doesn’t run itself. It isn’t enough to have great ideas for lesson plans, that’s like having skin without a skeleton. I know this sound overwhelming, but what Garden of Learning has found is that it can be done and it’s worth doing.