Q. What is the most important thing to consider when starting a school garden program?

A. A school-wide garden program can be very difficult without a system for organizing and operating it. Having a system for organizing it is as important as the soil, water and the sunshine will be to your plants. This is why I created The Garden System.

Q. How do we start the program?

A. If you purchase The Garden of Learning System, you will receive the Owner’s Manual, explaining how to organize and operate your program. It details the operating plan: how the garden will be used as an outdoor classroom, how the plots are organized, the role of the teachers, the role of the volunteers, the role of the garden committee, participation forms, documents to recruit volunteers, a plot sign list, detailed instructions for kicking off your program and more. Lesson plans are sold separately.

Q. Who will be in charge of organizing a school-wide garden?

A. Some schools may choose to have a single Garden Coordinator. Depending on the size and scope of the program, this job can easily approach half-time to full-time hours. Other schools organize a Garden committee, dividing the tasks and responsibilities among many volunteers or subcommittees. The Garden of Learning System organizes each job by task.

Q. Will teachers play a role in organizing all this? Can they? Should they? Will they have the time?

A. Teachers will become overburdened quickly if they add organizing a school garden to their already overflowing schedule. Their job in the program is to review the lesson plan and adjust it or add anything they want. Garden of Learning offers flexibility for teachers. The lesson plans include a variety of subjects, are experiential and integrate the State Standards. Teachers are free to modify each lesson. They can bring it back into the classroom and incorporate it into other subject areas.

Q. How can a teacher get 20 or 30 students to focus in a garden and give them a good academic lesson?

A. With Garden of Learning, each class will designate one or two reliable parent volunteers as Garden Parents. They need to be able to commit to two hours a week and work effectively with small groups of students during their garden period. This allows them to focus in a quiet setting.

Q. What grades participate?

A. Garden of Learning curriculum is designed for grades K-6. With a good garden program, it doesn’t take long before all classes get involved.

Q. How often will students participate in a school garden?

A. A school garden is an outdoor lab where learning comes to life. Each class should visit the garden weekly during their garden period. Some schools may choose to start off slowly and have classes visit the garden every other week.

Q. How much time does a student spend in the garden each week?

A. Most lessons require the entire class to spend 1/2 hour of instruction time in the classroom, sometime before the outdoor garden lesson. Students then rotate through the garden for 1/2 hour at a time during their garden period.

Q. What will students do in the garden?

A. Students work in the Garden of Learning during the entire school year. The curriculum integrates the sciences, environmental education, math, language arts and reading, social studies, nutrition, art, and agriculture into the garden while getting the jobs of a real working organic garden done throughout the seasons. Each lesson has a different focus and will guide your students in the garden.

Q. How will the lessons happen?

A. When using the Garden of Learning System, your coordinator(s) will build a garden calendar into the school year. Weekly lesson plans will be distributed to teachers and Garden Parents in advance of each lesson.

Q. Will students repeat the same lessons year after year?

A. No. At the beginning of the school year, your coordinators can log onto www.gardenoflearningk6.com and order the lessons for the upcoming school year. There is curriculum available for grade levels K-6. The curriculum for each grade level is sold separately and also available for purchase in a bundle. See our purchasing page for more details.

Q. What other supplies will we need to go with the lessons?

A. Each lesson plan comes with a page titled “A Gardener’s Notes.” This page gives detailed instructions on setting up the lesson, including what materials, instructional aids, books, etc. to buy and where they can be purchased.

Q. How large of a garden do we need?

A. The size of the garden depends on the number of students using your program. Consider a master plan for expanding into the future as your program grows. Consider consulting a local gardener or employee at the local nursery to answer this question.

Q. Who gets what space in the garden? What if everybody wants their own space?

A. Many a school garden has gone to seed over “property rights.” Garden of Learning uses a collective “kibbutz” approach. The garden is owned by the school, and each child is encouraged to think of herself or himself as the co-owner of the whole garden.

Q. What crops do we plant?

A. Plots are organized according to how they will be used. Each plot carries a theme and is planted with specific, rotating crops that can provide activities in autumn, winter, and spring. For example, lettuce will be planted in the “Bunny Brunch” plot and butterfly flowers will be planted in the “I Never Metamorphosis I Didn’t Like” plot. Also, consider researching what crops are best for your climate.

Q. How many plots should we have?

A. A large Garden of Learning program can have a dozen plots or more, used by all participating classes. The various plots will be integral to the weekly lesson plans.

Q. Who plants what plots?

A. Classes or grades may be assigned different plants depending on the needs of the garden. As the crops grow all classes tend to the whole garden. When the crops are harvested, classes share the bounty or it may be sold at a school Farmer’s Market or donated to a food bank.

Q. Do we need a shed?

A. Yes, the shed will be “Garden Central.” Each week teachers and Garden Parents will find a master copy of the current lesson plan, as well as detailed lesson instructions. All tools, plants, seeds, soil amendments, instructional aids, books, videos, etc. will be located in the shed.

Q. How much does Garden of Learning cost?

A. At the beginning of each year log onto www.gardenoflearningk6.com. to purchase a new year’s worth of lesson plans. The system for organizing and operating a schoolwide program is sold separately. Garden of Learning also offers other garden materials including Farmer’s Market. As your program grows you can purchase what you need.

Q. How much of an operating budget will we need?

A. Building your infrastructure is a one-time cost and will vary depending on the size of your garden and labor costs. The cost to run a school garden program depends on the number of students that will participate. In the beginning, you should be able to get your local merchants and parents to donate items such as plants, soil, tools, etc. You’ll need a budget for instructional material and equipment such as videos, books, magnifying lenses and models.

Q. How about fundraising? Where will we get money to run and grow our program?

A. A “Farmer’s Market” held in spring during Open House is a fabulous way to show off the garden to parents and administration, while also raising money. A school of 450 students with a variety of income levels can raise $2500.00 at a school Farmer’s Market. Garden of Learning offers curriculum and support material to help in organizing a Farmer’s Market. There are many grants available for school garden programs as well. Parent Clubs and school administration often play a financial role in a garden program.