Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Model Policies and Organizations from Across the Country

Written by Whitney Cohen. Life Lab Education Director

School gardens are fantastic! (To be convinced, view The Garden, A Master Teacher) But that’s not what this article’s about, so let me start over. School gardens are fantastic, and they require a tremendous amount of work. Which begs the question: Who can do all the work involved in growing a school garden?

There is a groundswell of public support for school gardens, and yet, according to the California School Garden Survey conducted by Life Lab in 2011, the vast majority of the work involved in creating and maintaining school gardens falls on teachers who are already clearly overworked. Some teachers have gotten in touch with local garden and landscaping services in the hopes that they would be able to maintain the garden or install stone veneer panels for exterior gardens so students could have a safe place to do garden tasks. And while some of the necessary garden tasks fit seamlessly into the school schedule and make for ideal, hands-on learning experiences, some simply do not. And so it is common to see a teacher, at the end of a very long day, installing bird netting over the seedlings, heading out to the hardware store to replace a leaky valve, or sitting down to the computer to write a grant for a tool shed.

The good news is: there is a better way. In fact, there are many better ways! Having worked with thousands of educators across the country, we have seen unequivocal evidence that school gardens thrive when there is funding not just for materials and training, but for a leader. This funding can go to create decking areas such as the ones created by companies like Futurewood and provide a safe space for the children to go and enjoy nature.

Many schools fundraise to support paid garden coordinator positions via education foundations, school improvement funds, or grants. At a time when some schools are being forced to cut staffing, libraries, and even school days in the year, however, this is a tall demand: in most cases, too tall. And so today we are highlighting one model for success that we have seen taking root across the country: policies and organizations that fund coordinators to serve gardens in a particular region:

Some cities or regions have passed legislation or created service member programs to fund school garden coordinators. Here are some very exciting examples:

DC City Council unanimously passed this wellness and anti-hunger act, providing nearly $6 million soda tax dollars to D.C. district schools. In addition to improving school meals and physical education, the act allows the District to provide $10,000 stipends to schools for gardens and garden coordinators, and to hire one district-wide School Garden Specialist to support them.

  • Santa Cruz City Schools in Santa Cruz, CA

In 2008, school garden coordinators and advocates presented a proposal to the Santa Cruz City Schools Parcel Tax Oversight Committee for inclusion in a parcel tax renewal. This committee created a list of recommended jobs and programs, including garden coordinator positions. The school board adopted these recommendations and the voters passed the 9-year parcel tax, which now funds garden coordinators in all 4 elementary schools in the SCCS school district for 20 hours/week plus benefits.

  • Education Outside (formerly the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance) in San Francisco, CA

Education Outside has helped secure nearly $14 million in bond funding for the development of green schoolyards in 84 San Francisco public schools. The organization funds green schoolyard installation; teacher trainings; and a service corps program that places 10 Corps for Outside Education service members in 10 public elementary schools.

FoodCorps is a national network of AmeriCorps service members working on school garden and farm to school programs in limited-resource communities. There are currently 80 FoodCorps service members and 12 fellows across 12 states, and the program is growing. Schools and other site hosts pay a cost share of $5,000 to host full-time service members, many of whom coordinate one or more gardens in their service regions.

There are also various foundations and non-profits that fund school garden coordinators in their areas. Here are a few stellar examples:

The Orfalea Foundation funds 21 garden coordinators, each of whom oversees 1-3 school gardens. Each coordinator is funded for 10 hours/week per garden.

City Sprouts funds 4 garden coordinators for 30 hours/week from April-November. Each garden coordinator oversees 3 school gardens. City Sprouts also hosts 3 FoodCorps members, each of whom oversee 1-2 school gardens.

Urban Sprouts funds 3 garden coordinators for 12-32 hours/week year-round. Between them, these coordinators oversee 5 school gardens.

This model differs from those above. REAL School Gardens provides $400 stipends to garden coordinators (often teachers) from 92 schools that demonstrate a broad base of support from staff, parents, principal, community members, and students. Before garden installations, schools are guided to establish a garden committee to spread the load of responsibility and ensure that the garden coordinator is the leader of the team, but not the sole caretaker of the garden. REAL School Gardens staff support the 92 garden teams with coordinator meetings, supplies, and other resources.

Of course, some teachers would like to be the Garden Coordinators for their schools, and they are ideal candidates for the job! In order to make this proposition sustainable, some schools have fundraised to pay substitutes, providing release time for the teachers to teach and manage their own school gardens. Here’s an example:

If you have another model for supporting school gardens to share, please keep the conversation alive! Post a comment about the models you know below.

Also see in our Sustaining School Gardens series:

?Coming Soon:

  • Volunteer-led programs.
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1 week ago

Life Lab

Thank you all that joined us for our Spring Benefit💚 Our esteemed guest speakers Dr Dilafruz Williams and Paco Estrada shared moving testimony to the proven impacts of school garden education. We are thankful to have the opportunity to inspire children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden based education. We are thankful for our local and national communities. We are thankful for each and every one of you! #supportschoolgardens #thewholechild #bettertogether #lifelab #interconnected #healthyfood #nature #loveoflearning #donate

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Readers To Eaters

Thrilled that The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter is the SC Ag in the Classroom May Book of the Month selection, just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week and United Nations World Bee Day. (WBD info: bit.ly/3cF6i2d) See book creator Shabazz Larkin read the book on PBSThirteen WNET New York‘s "Let’s Learn." bit.ly/32LQ0S0..#Bees #Pollinators #Pollination #SaveTheBees #GiveBeesAChance #BeeFear #BeeLove #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #FarmToSchool #TeacherAppreciationWeek #WorldBeeDay #SchoolGarden #GardenEducation #EnvironmentalEducation #ClimateEducation #OutdoorEducation #EnvironmentalDiversity #DiverseBooksNational Agriculture in the Classroom American Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNC Farm Bureau "Ag in the Classroom"California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) Washington Ag in the Classroom The Bee Cause Project South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Clemson Extension School & Community GardeningSouth Carolina 4-H Youth Development South Carolina State Library Charleston County Public LibraryLife Lab Big Green Pilot Light FoodCorpsHAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK! {Read through our post for giveaway info!}It’s already May, and you know what the new month brings – a NEW featured book of the month! Shabazz Larkins’ "The Thing About Bees" is a wonderful tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat. Check out our lesson plan here: www.scfb.org/book-of-the-monthALSO – this is your last chance to sign up for our "All About Bees" workshop TOMORROW! us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZItc-qoqT4iGtF9ZoqqLnlWDGx4q2Cn-1CfAND LAST, but certainly not least, a giveaway for a deserving teacher! Every day this week we will post a giveaway for Teacher Appreciation Week. Today’s prize will be a free subscription for one year to our Ag Book of the Month program. Comment below with your school and grade level to enter today’s drawing!

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2 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Celebrating last day of National Poetry Month and National Garden Month with "I Am A Farmer" from A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food by Shabazz Larkin. bit.ly/3cKEucz• "Readers and eaters are taken on a comical romp through the world of food using poetry and a visual feast of photographs enhanced with playful doodles."— American Library Association Notable Children’s Book• "Varied in style and tone —much like food itself—the witty, quirky poems take on many different topics . . . This is a charming and original book that should start some quality conversation about food."—School Library Journal..#NationalGardenMonth #NationalPoetryMonth #FoodPoetry #FoodPoem #IAmAFarmer #Farming #UrbanFarmer #YoungFarmer #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #FarmToSchool #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #DiverseBooks National Agriculture in the ClassroomAmerican Farm Bureau Foundation for AgricultureNational Farm to School NetworkFoodCorps Pilot Light Common Threads Big Green Harlem Grown Green Bronx Machine DC Grown The Food Trust Detroit Hives Ron Finley Brown Bookshelf The Family Dinner Project Whole Kids Foundation The Bee Cause Project Life LabClemson Extension School & Community GardeningThe Edible Schoolyard Project Edible Schoolyard NYC Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy

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2 weeks ago

Nikki Patterson

Join me tomorrow for an inspiring celebration of the beautiful impacts and interconnections cultivated through school gardens. This one hour zoom fundraiser begins at 11🌱Please give as you can. #supportschoolgardens #schoolgardeneducation #LifeLab Life Lab 🌻 register at www.LifeLab.org/spring-benefit

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

🌸 Growing Gardens of Hope! 🌸We are so excited for Life Lab’s Spring Benefit Brunch this Saturday at 11am! We are delighted to share our guest speakers: Dilafruz Williams and Francisco “Paco” Estrada, who will speak on the interconnected relationships cultivated through school garden education and the healing, inspirational impact on students, families, and our broader community.Dr. Dilafruz Williams is Professor and co-founder of Leadership for Sustainability Education. Dilafruz’s recent research has focused extensively on garden-based education – its conceptualization and effectiveness in engagement of children and youth that enhances their holistic and academic learning. She directs the NSF-funded project: Science in the Learning Gardens. She has studied school gardens across 12 states in the USA and in many countries across continents. Dilafruz’s passion for gardens is evident in her own delight and engagement with soil and life in its multitude of manifestations of wonders and mystery. 🌱 Register today! 🌱lifelab.org/spring-benefit/

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2 weeks ago

Life Lab

The Life Lab Spring Benefit Brunch Menu is available now! 🌻 Choose from selected items provided by our generous community partners @charlie_hong_kong @newleafcmarket @companionbakeshop @steamerlanesupply 🌱Limited inventory available! Purchase at LifeLab.org/spring-benefit/#menu

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3 weeks ago

Life Lab

Life Lab celebrates Earth Day every day!🌎 🌱 #EarthDay #schoolgardens #gardensofhope

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3 weeks ago

Readers To Eaters

Happy Earth Day, National Environmental Education Week and National Garden Month!Good read for young environmentalists & gardeners: Zora’s Zucchini and the Spanish edition, LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA. bit.ly/3eCjEOh"We’ll never make headway with the pressing environmental issues of our time—such as climate change, community-building and food waste—without brilliant, fun little books like Zora’s Zucchini."—EcoConsumer • See author Katherine Pryor read the book with conversation starter on food waste. bit.ly/3eRGH7m• Check out Pilot Light‘s new lesson plan for the book, with theme on "Sharing Food with Our Community" for Early Childhood and K – 2 English Language Arts. bit.ly/3gtKRG8• Hear LAS CALABACITAS DE ZORA, new in audiobook from Live Oak Media. bit.ly/32Hc9k5..#EarthDay #NationalEnvironmentalEducationWeek #NationalGardenMonth #ClimateActionMonth #EnvironmentalEducation #GardenEducation #KidsGardening #ClimateAction #FoodShare #FoodWaste #FoodLiteracy #FoodEducation #EarlyChildhood #LanguageArts #FarmToSchool #SchoolGarden #AgClassroom #AgLiteracy #AITC #WIC #SNAPEdJunior Master Gardener Program The American Horticultural Society Life Lab FoodCorps KidsGardening.org The Edible Schoolyard Project Whole Kids Foundation Chef Ann FoundationNational WIC Association California WIC Association

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