-Start a school garden-
Students at Parkway School plant radishes, kale, spinach, and beet seedlings in one of their raised beds.
Parkway Elementary School
Lettuce Learn Garden
Boone, NC – Watauga County
The staff at Parkway Elementary School love having gardens on site to enhance their student’s learning, but they don’t have the resources to provide year-round garden maintenance. This is where Shannon Carroll, a Garden Coordinator with Lettuce Learn, comes in. She manages the raised beds, passive solar greenhouse, pollinator gardens, and forest trails that the students love to visit.
Shannon also comes up with fun ideas, such as planting a “pizza garden” filled with tomatoes, peppers, and basil, to show the students that garden-fresh produce is delicious too. She does this work through Lettuce Learn, a network that supports school gardens in Boone. Lettuce Learn provides training for school gardeners, a network of volunteers, and resources such as a garden library, free seeds, and tool share.
The students learn from the gardens in many ways. They planted a pollinator garden and learned about the importance of pollinators (such as bees and butterflies), which are necessary for plants to produce fruit or seeds. They also help plant and tend to the gardens throughout the school year.
In “Sci Pals,” middle schoolers are paired with 1st graders to learn about science together, and they often do so in the gardens. Every spring, local “frogologists” visit the garden to teach the students about frogs and toads. Through Bonnie Plant’s Cabbage Program, all 3rd graders receive their own free cabbage plant, a popular green in the area. Finally, Shannon holds “taste tests” of unfamiliar vegetables, often featuring a vegetable that is growing in the school garden.
Here are some tips for starting your own school garden:
Connect with Other Gardens: Reach out to other local gardens to share information, tools, and seeds. Look for a local garden network, or start your own!
Use Local & National Resources: Check out the resources below for some national school garden resources, and reach out to your county’s Cooperative Extension Office or a Master Gardener for some local knowledge.
Focus on Learning, not Perfection: At Parkway School, they aren’t worried about having the prettiest garden on the block. They focus on letting kids learn in the garden, which may mean not having perfectly straight rows or leaving plants in the ground to see how they decompose.
Share Your Bounty: There are signs throughout the school’s garden that tell visitors what plants are growing and which veggies they can harvest for themselves. The school also donates extra produce to a food outreach program.
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