The Brandywine Heights Elementary School Garden Committee, consisting of the school principal, food service staff, Business Manager, Secretary, teachers, and other school personnel, distributed “Seed Kits” to each K-3 classroom. This allowed students to plant and tend to the seedlings until they were strong enough to be planted in the raised bed garden located by the front door of the school. The school maintenance staff built the raised beds and supplied the soil. Family and community groups tended the garden over the summer. Gardening tools and gloves were located in the school office for those who came to the garden during school hours. The garden consists of two raised beds each being approximately 5 feet by 12 feet. This allowed for two rows of crops in each garden, thus allowing external student access. One raised bed has heirloom and Roma tomatoes, along with basil. The other raised bed garden is growing pumpkins, zucchinis and carrots. Everyone was kept informed of the project via email. Students tasted products from the garden upon their return to school in the fall.
Students will experience every aspect of gardening.
Students will experience the superior qualities of locally grown produce.
Students will be motivated to try new fruits and vegetables.
Students will learn and understand the origin and sources of their food.
It was helpful to have a supportive Garden Committee to assist with the garden during the school day. They assembled Seedling Kits, supervised the construction of the raised beds, and were present to help plant seedlings when needed.
Support from the superintendent, principal, and other school staff is essential for success.
Involve all stakeholders in your garden project. Parents, school board members, local vendors, and students from other grade level schools are a wonderful help.
Evidence of Success
The enthusiasm among the school personnel and parents was infectious. Everyone that viewed the garden was talking about it.
The superintendent has asked for a larger garden and possibly additional gardens at other school locations.
Berlin Brothersvalley School District's agriculture teacher, with guidance from a Green Grower from the Penn State Extension office, conducted classroom lessons each day about how to grow produce in a greenhouse. Students were taught about the proper soil, fertilizer, water, planters, and seeds needed to start the growing process. Students started with seeds, watched each day, and recorded the growing process of plants. They used fertilizing and watering schedules to track the growth because each plant requires a different time period to incubate and grow into a beautiful vegetable. The gardens were maintained by the students via a weekly schedule during the spring semester. Volunteer students and staff maintained the plants over the summer months until they were harvested in August.
Signs were posted in the cafeteria announcing that soon it would be featuring school garden fresh produce on the salad bar. Teachers encouraged students in the classroom by teaching them about growing and harvesting produce. Vegetables grown include tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, and broccoli, all of which were used in the school cafeteria. The food service staff spent an in-service day learning how to properly clean, prepare, and care for garden fresh vegetable.
Contact Person: Catherine Berkebilen Contact Person’s Title: Food Service Director Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Person’s Phone Number: (814) 267-4621
Farm to School
Grow produce at the school which will be used in the school cafeteria.
Students will experience planting produce and watching it grow.
Harvest produce from the garden without bruising plants.
Food service staff will learn cleaning measures which will ensure sanitary conditions.
Ensure that produce will be grown in the proper temperatures. This winter was so harsh that even indoor growing was a challenge.
Teach the students the responsibility of taking care of something that grows and develops into an edible product.
Remember that it takes more time to clean fresh produce straight from the garden versus vendor delivered produce.
Evidence of Success
The owner of the organic farm was pleased with the students' attentiveness and service hours on the farm.
Students planted and harvested produce which was used in the school cafeteria.
Salad bar attendance increased after introducing garden produce.
Students learned valuable lessons on planting, watering schedules, team work, cooperation, and harvesting techniques.
As a downtown alternative education facility space is at a premium and new ways are always being sought to engage the students and stimulate their interest.
With this in mind the school looked for new ways to grow plants via a hydroponic garden in the classroom, and indoor greenhouse system to start seedlings and a new space to grow plants. This new space was an herb garden created from corrugated pipe, a series of potato pots and a raised trellis garden bed in which vining plants are grown.
Our promising practice was the construction of a two raised bed garden at one of your four elementary schools, Charlestown Elementary. We already have a large garden at KD Markley Elementary School and found that while all the children in the district receive fresh produce from KD Markley, not all were able to see the process from seed to table. By growing produce in their own school on a smaller scale, the children at Charlestown Elementary are able to take part in the growing and harvesting of their produce. This allows the kids to take part in preparing their food which makes them a lot more excited about eating it. This past season we grew kale, broccoli, cauliflower, rainbow swiss chard, cabbage, and lettuces.
To build a raised two bed garden in an elementary school
To show the students what hard work it takes to grow produce
To allow the kids to come out and harvest the produce
To get the students excited about eating the produce that they picked
To help address the childhood obesity issue with fresh fruits and vegetables
We recruited an eagle scout to help us build the raised beds. He was able to complete construction in just a few days after we bought him the materials. He leveled the ground and pulled up existing weeds and grass before starting. The school put together a watering schedule and recruited the classrooms to volunteer to water the garden on a daily basis. We did find that a few of the plants like the kale and cabbage were highly desired by pests. Next year we will not be planting these and in their place plant beets or carrots instead.
Evidence of Success
We have harvested lettuce and used it for the salads on the lunch line as well as taste tested the fresh kale in salads and kale chips. The kids, teachers, and staff have told us how excited they are to be able to see the plants at various stages of growth.
Arts Academy Charter School wanted to start a school garden to supply fresh produce to their primarily urban student population, to allow the food service staff a chance to create new recipes, and to include in the school curriculum.
The science class started seeds in the classroom which were transferred into the school garden and these items were used to study plant growth in science class.
During the summer months as the items from the garden were harvested faculty used the food provided by the school garden in recipes which were used to feed the students and staff during summer camp activities. Some of the recipes were frozen to be enjoyed while school was in session during the fall and winter months. Zucchini bread and salsa were two of the favorite foods of both the staff and student body.
Students and faculty will sample fresh produce in new recipes which will be sourced from the school garden.
Students will use school garden produce to study plant growth in science class as part of the school curriculum.
It is helpful to grow foods that are both common and slightly uncommon. For example, everyone is familiar with tomatoes but fewer people are familiar with yellow or orange tomatoes, dark purple Cherokee tomatoes, etc. Using different varieties shows students that vegetables exhibit variety and need not be boring.
Be sure to enlist parent/family support for the garden during the summer months. The garden needs to be weeded, watered, and harvested during the summer and specific tasks should be assigned and scheduled.
The families which are assigned garden tasks can contribute recipes based on their likes, ethnic preference, etc.
Evidence of Success
The students and their families were enthusiastic about the garden, incorporating its produce into the school lunch menu, and volunteering for garden maintenance. This year the garden will be expanded with more boxes, fencing, and increased variety of items.
Exeter Junior High School recently completed a renovation of their existing school garden. The planter boxes were dilapidated and needed to be renovated with new wood and hardware. The school also decided to incorporate composting barrels which were fashioned from garbage cans. This enabled the students to learn about the complete life cycle of plants and how to maintain the soil organically without the use of chemical fertilizers.
The project's first step was planning the renovations. Students were required to detail the work that was to be done, choose appropriate seeds, locate where they should be planted, choose ideal locations for the planters, and make a list of needed tools. The actual construction work was completed by adult volunteers and the work was completed in time for the growing season.
Because of time constraints caused by the block semester schedule quickly maturing items had to be chosen. The result is that students had to learn how to interpret the growing instructions on the seed packets and many chose to plant items with which they were unfamiliar. After learning how to care for a garden the students eventually weeded, thinned, transplanted, managed pests, mulched, and watered the garden. When ripe, the students harvested the crops and brought them home to share with their families.
In the meantime students learned about acceptable and unacceptable compost ingredients and compiled organic material for compost barrels. After decomposition students buried the compost in the garden beds for the next semester's growing season.
Students will, with the aid of adult volunteers, renovate dilapidated garden boxes.
Students will plan, plant, care for, and harvest garden crops.
Students will compile, maintain, and use compost barrels.
Remember to teach students that composting and gardening work together to complete the plant life cycle. Students should learn that composting is a form of recycling and that it returns nutrients to the soil.
Allow enough room between garden beds to allow a riding mower to pass between them.
Evidence of Success
A successful garden harvest is evidence of success. Students harvested a significant amount of food from each garden bed and reported positive feedback after taking their items home and sharing it with their families.
Students recycled over 100 gallons of organic matter, turning it into a useful soil additive and eliminating the need for chemical fertilizer.
HMS School for Children With Cerebral Palsy wanted to design a school garden that was not only wheelchair accessible but would also involve all five senses. Since some students have impairment of one or more senses it was important to ensure that the senses which the student does rely on are fully engaged in the garden experience.
The garden is constructed so that it is fully functional for a person in a wheelchair. Beds can be raised and lowered, students can independently access water and compost, and the garden provides a sensory environment by offering wind chimes, strong smells, and a range of textures.
Harvested items are used in a cooking group so the students can learn the process of how food goes from a seed to their table. However, some students are unable to eat by mouth. Therefore, it's important that they can experience the fruits and vegetables by smelling and touching them.
Students in wheelchairs will be able to independently access the garden.
Students will experience a garden which engages all five senses.
Students will learn how food goes from seed to table.
Even if your students are not physically challenged you can improve the garden experience by making the garden more accessible and by involving all five senses. Divide all the elements of your garden into these five categories and ask what your garden provides.
Touch: How can people reach your garden? It can be made more accessible by having beds and planters that can be raised or lowered with a pulley system. Also, what feels cool to the touch? What feels rough? What feels smooth?
Smell: What smells good? Offer a variety of smells with popular herbs such as basil, rosemary, and oregano. Some wonderful smells, such as lemongrass, can provide double-duty by warding off pests such as mosquitoes. This will enable the students to enjoy the garden more.
Sight: Provide a variety of colorful plants such as strawberries, peppers, pumpkins, and tomatoes. Include colorful wind chimes and sun catchers.
Hearing: We can't hear the garden grow but we can hear the sound of rain into the rain barrel, the sound of water from a hose, the sound of a wind chime as the breeze blows.
Taste: This is self-explanatory but try to include a variety of tastes and textures such as sweet, sour, savory, crunchy, etc.
Evidence of Success
The staff, students, and parents are all impressed with the garden area. The crop exceeded expectations and was used to teach the students about growing food and cooking. Students took plants home to continue to grow at home.
The Harrisburg Math and Sciences Academy partnered with Seed Savers, an heirloom seed company from Iowa. The founder of the company visited the school garden and explained to the students the differences between heirloom and GMO seeds and provided the school with genetically unmodified seeds.
In addition, a local CSA, Cool Beans, and Broad Street Market both contributed plants and seeds to the garden. A broad range of items including many different varieties of peppers, tomatoes, berries, herbs, lettuces, etc. were planted as well as flowers which were chosen for their ability to attract certain kinds of insects as well as helping to pollinate the garden.
Approximately fifty students volunteered at least ten hours each to the project which not only included planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting but also establishing relationships with residents in a nearby retirement home. These residents shared the garden and its produce as well as stories and life lessons with the students.
The school garden also served as an outdoor classroom for lessons in science, nutrition, and the local economy. During warm weather classes were held in the garden which dovetailed with the school curriculum.
Most of the students in Pottsville Area School District have little to no experience with rural settings, farming, or healthy snacks. To combat this, first graders were taken on a field trip to Jersey Acres farm and taught the origins of their food. A guided tour of the farm provided lessons on what is required to produce the food that eventually ends up on a student's plate, the kinds of produce which are locally grown, and the challenges which farmers face.
Once back home these lessons were incorporated into the Food, Land, and People curriculum in the classrooms. To complement these lessons the students planted mixed lettuce, herbs, and vegetables in their classrooms and these items were then placed in the school solarium. Each class took turns tending to these items.
In the Spring, once the threat of frost had passed the students transplanted the items to raised beds in the school courtyard and continued to water and care for their produce. During the last week of school a local chef instructed the students to create their own salad dressing which they used on the items they harvested from the garden. Students who participated received a sticker and were encouraged to share their knowledge with their families when they arrived home.
During the Summer Title 1 Reading Challenge students were given fruits and vegetables for taste testing, many of which came from the school garden.
Contact Person: Mary Ellen Setlock Contact Person’s Title: Federal Programs Coordianator Email: email@example.com Contact Person’s Phone Number: (570) 621-7684
Farm to School
Students who live in an urban setting will experience the rich agricultural milieu which borders their city.
Students will learn the basics of farming and about locally grown produce.
Students will plant and harvest fruits and vegetables, taste them, and create recipes utilizing their harvest.
Reach out to the community. You will likely be surprised at the support which local businesses will provide.
Spend time budgeting for your project and form a team to envision every conceivable expense. It's prudent to budget for some unexpected costs.
Evidence of Success
Students kept science journals, logged their personal experiences, as well as charted the growth of their seedlings. This provided a tangible, measurable, way to keep track of their progress.
A year later the children are still discussing their farming adventures and the fun that they had making salads. These children can answer questions about farming and healthy snacking which they were unable to do before the project.
Students studied the parts of a plant, raised their own broccoli, spinach, leaf lettuce, strawberries, radishes, sweet potatoes, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins. They also re-purposed an old plastic kiddie pool into a makeshift garden box filled with broccoli and lettuces. The children enjoyed poking holes in the bottom of the pool to facilitate drainage before filling the container with soil and planting seeds.
Students served their own garden produce in the form of zucchini bread, tomato salsa, pepper salsa, and mint tea to parents who visited the garden during a Garden Open House. The biggest hit of the night was the pepper salsa which was a family recipe of the assistant principal.
The entire student body participated in a “mystery ingredient” contest*. The cafeteria prepared muffins using the mystery ingredient (sweet potatoes from the school garden). Then students tasted the muffins and guessed the mystery ingredient. There were over 550 guesses.
Plans for 2014 include growing all of the above plus Mexican sweet gherkins on the entrance arbor. The school is also purchasing an indoor grow light cart that will travel between classrooms. This will enable students to study how seeds germinate and grow under different conditions. Classes will grow vegetables on their windowsills to be transplanted to the outdoor garden in the Spring. Students will taste garden-grown strawberries and the student body, which exceeds 600, will compete in a “Strawberry Poetry Competition.” The winning classrooms will have a strawberry sundae party. Sixth grade leaders will open a stand at lunch and give out stickers to students who try new vegetables (spinach and radishes) from the garden.
*When providing food items with ingredients that are unknown to the students, be sure to be aware of possible food allergies and intolerances before providing the food.
The Urban League of Pittsburgh Charter School wanted to expand their garden to include items of historical and cultural significance to African Americans, such as collard greens and turnips.
Because space is at a premium at this downtown school it was decided to implement wooly pockets, which are a type of hanging planter. The pockets are able to hang from a greenhouse, thus no additional space is required for their use. In addition, the garden beds themselves have been expanded.
After the students, teachers, and volunteers implemented the changes the vegetables were used for classroom lessons on African American history and culture.
The Upper Bucks County Technical School has a forty year old greenhouse which it has been renovating. When finished, it will include a hydroponic garden, new acrylic panels, new heating and cooling systems, and state of the art controls which will enable it to be viewed and operated via computer and smart phone.
When completed the greenhouse will offer year round growing and the produce will be used in the school nutrition program with excess being sold at the annual Mother's Day plant sale.
The greenhouse has been renovated to the extent that it is now operable, and students have already planted lettuce, tomatoes, snap peas, sweet and hot peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Contact Person: Jeremy Kunkle Contact Person’s Title: Landscape Construction and Plant Technology Teacher Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Person’s Phone Number: (215) 795-0530
Farm to School
Renovate existing greenhouse to current state of the art.
Grow vegetables year round.
Use vegetables for culinary arts, school meals, and annual Mother's Day plant sale.
Have a plan to deal with destructive insects.
Develop a plan to pollinate the plants. Students can research ways to hand pollinate plants.
Evidence of Success
The greenhouse is up and running, although improvements are ongoing.
The culinary program has already received a batch of lettuce, snap peas, and tomatoes.
The plumbing department is working on a hydroponic system.
Radio Park's vegetable garden was upgraded with a larger grow light this year which enables students to start growing vegetables earlier indoors from seeds before transferring them into the outdoor garden. The students plant, care for, and harvest an array of unusual vegetables including heirloom potatoes and tomatoes, strawberry popcorn, Mexican sour gherkins, rutabagas, and more. This piques student interest and develops their palate and appreciation for how diverse, delicious, and nutritious vegetables can be. When harvested the vegetables are used for taste-testing and in school meals. To complement the garden activities students visit a farm cooperative, enjoy lessons from local chefs, are involved in garden and produce-related art projects, and incorporate the garden into classroom work.
Students in McConnellsburg High School's agriculture production class constructed a hydroponic lettuce growing system. This system involves growing produce in nutrient-rich water without the use of soil.
The students did research on hydroponics and learned what was required to fertilize lettuce, defeat pests, and manage the system. They were responsible for all aspects of constructing the growing system and reading and following all the instructions to ensure the system was constructed properly and functioned correctly.
Lettuce was started as seedlings in rock wool growing cubes and when the seedlings reached an adequate sized they were transferred into the hydroponic system.
As the lettuce matures it will be harvested and used in the cafeteria. The hope is that enough lettuce will be harvested to meet the salad needs of the school.
Athens School District uses hydroponics to teach students about gardening, health and nutrition, economics, and science.
Approximately 350 high school students toured the Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority. This is a landfill which generates methane gas which is used to generate electricity and heat that powers a hydroponic garden. Hydroponics is a subset of agriculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil.
Lettuce from the Northern Tier garden was combined with other vegetables grown at Athens School District's own hydroponic garden and a salad taste-test was enjoyed by students in the cafeteria during a normal school lunch. Part of the taste-test included nutrition education where students learned about portion sizes, calories associated with typical ingredients, and the nutrition content of fresh fruits and vegetables.
In addition, the students learned how their town's economy is affected by the production and purchase of local goods and services.
Athens School District also has a hydroponic garden and indoor greenhouse which provides fresh products for students, faculty and staff.
This year we hope to start our plants indoors and then transfer them to our outside gardens. Residents who are not allowed outside of the facility will be able to care for the plants during the inside phase. Then other residents will move the seedlings to the outside gardens.
We are also going to add herbs to our dining room planters so we can utilize them year–round. Our outside gardens presently consist of a variety of herbs and vegetables. Our food service staff freeze–dries the herbs and vegetables for year–round enjoyment. We will enlarge our gardens this year to allow for an increase in vegetables. We will add a pumpkin and gourd patch, along with watermelons, honeydews and cantaloupes. We also hope to start some fruit trees, and, if there is enough time, we may add a corn field. If we can secure the necessary resources and funds for a hot house, we also plan to grow crops year–round. Advice The program has been rewarding to both residents and staff, but it takes a lot of resources and volunteers to continue the success.
Contact Person: Jacqueline Froehlich Contact Person’s Title: Deputy Director of Operations Email: email@example.com Contact Person’s Phone Number: (215) 340–8302
To use our school’s gardens as a therapeutic tool.
To develop rapport with the residents.
To teach skills that will help residents transition into society.
To teach nutrition to the residents and aid them in selecting healthful foods.
To instill confidence and pride in the residents.
Evidence of Success
Improvements in residents’ behavior, life skills, and self–esteem.
There are seven raised beds in an outdoor garden. Each grade (K-6) is responsible for an individual bed. The students choose what they want to grow and then start that item in the classroom as a seedling.
Lessons are incorporated in the project (e.g. math, general science, ecology, biology) whenever possible as the students monitor plant growth, light exposure, water consumption, etc.
As soon as possible the seedlings are transported to the garden beds. The lessons continue and expand to include studying insect life, soil content, rainfall, etc.
Some plants will be monitored and harvested in the fall (e.g. cabbage, pumpkins) while other items (e.g. radishes, lettuce) are harvested before school is out for the summer. Herbs are used by the neighboring high school’s family and consumer sciences teacher.
To integrate a school garden with PSSA standards for agriculture, environment, and ecology
To introduce K-6 students to concepts such as sustainability, local farm-to-table food production, and nutrition education, while encouraging physical education.
Before beginning a garden project it is best to ensure adequate funding. This requires creating a comprehensive action plan to present to benefactors, who are more likely to fund a project if they believe its goals and objectives are clearly defined.
Evidence of Success
Our schoolyard garden project is a work in progress which is growing and adapting as the students and teachers become more involved. Currently, the greatest evidence of success is the enthusiasm that the students have for the project. They love spending time in the garden, finding insects, learning about the different kinds of plants, and measuring growth. They are eager to talk about the effects of weather conditions on growing patterns, and sharing their newfound knowledge.
Special Education students learn best when engaged in hands-on learning. The school garden is a perfect venue for this. It is safe, all students can participate, and they can see the results of their work. The garden builds confidence, and the students can use their experiences to learn about math, science, reading, and arts.
Students grow spinach, lettuce, kale and tomatoes in the school garden. This produce is used for the school’s salad bar. The students weigh the produce, determine its market value, prepare invoices, and keep a balance sheet.
Contact Person: Mark Schweers Contact Person’s Title: Special Education Teacher Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact Person’s Phone Number: (724) 625-5286
Farm to School
To use a school garden to teach special needs students life skills
To incorporate the school curriculum into the gardening activities
Incorporate the lessons learned in the garden into the school curriculum.
Evidence of Success
Along with helping students learn academic skills, the most remarkable impact has been on the students with severe autism. The gardening program has helped these students learn to follow directions, communicate, and work as a team. The program gives students with severe autism an opportunity to make a contribution to the enterprise and to help it grow by doing daily greenhouse and garden chores.
The Avon Charter School originally had difficulties with their school garden because they planted a lot of crops which required attention throughout the summer, when students and other stakeholders were often out of town. This problem was largely solved by planting items which are seasonal to the winter (potatoes, Brussels’ sprouts, carrots, etc.) and items which can be grown indoors. The gardening which is done is incorporated into the school’s curriculum.
To integrate a school garden with PSSA standards by using the garden to teach about science and the environment.
To utilize produce from the school garden for school meals
Use the garden with special needs students. They seem to especially benefit from lessons learned in the garden.
Seek the cooperation of parents, members of the community, and as many stakeholders as possible.
The garden can be used with pre-primary students by using it to teach mathematical concepts.
Evidence of Success
Students have responded favorably to the garden and they are enthusiastic about contributing to its success. Special needs students, especially those who are easily bored benefit tremendously and are better able to concentrate when in the garden.
Union City Area School District had two community days to construct school garden beds and plant produce, build a birdhouse community, butterfly garden, and seating area. Participants included Girl Scout troops, teachers, cafeteria employees, administrators, students and their families. Families have volunteered to “adopt” the garden for one week in the summer. They will weed, water, and do general maintenance until the school year begins.
Contact Person: Krista Byler Contact Person’s Title: Foodservice Director Email: email@example.com Contact Person’s Phone Number: (814) 438-7673 Ext: 5466
Farm to School
To create a school garden which will be tended by students
To use garden produce in the school meals
To use the garden to teach nutrition education
The key is organization and enthusiasm. Reach out to local agencies, businesses, and to students’ families to make the garden a community event.
Evidence of Success
Although the garden is in its early stages the level of participation has been high and the students are eager to see the changes taking place in the garden over the summer.
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