School Gardens and Greenhouses


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School Gardens and Greenhouses
For more information, Please see websites below:
Organic Edible Schoolyards & Gardening with Children
Double Food Production from your School Garden with Organic Tech
Free School Gardening Art Posters`
Companion Planting Increases Food Production from School Gardens
Healthy Foods Dramatically Improves Student Academic Success
City Chickens for your Organic School Garden
Simple Square Foot Gardening for Schools - Teacher Guide

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School Gardens and Greenhouses

  1. 1. School Gardens and Greenhouses By Jessica Myhre Background Introduction Americans today spend 90 percent of their time indoors; we don’t spend nearly enough time in the sun, in the dirt, and in nature. School gardens and greenhouses offer great opportunities for hands-on outdoor field experience. Youth connect with an aspect of the natural world and with agriculture, while engaging in the processes that create the food that we eat. Helping plants and food grow gives us practical skills to engage with the nature and agriculture and teaches us where our food comes from, how we rely on natural resources, and to recognize the earth’s importance and vulnerability. School gardens provide hands-on, real-world problem-solving skills and opportunities for scientific inquiry. Gardens are the ideal site to learn about botany, agriculture, and nutritional health. Students become invested in their plants and the growing process, gaining a sense of ownership and responsibility. The vegetables grown in students’ gardens can be used for a few meals there at the school, giving the students a full appreciation of the earth and their own labor. Gardening not only gives students an alternative learning space to thrive, but also presents important opportunities for leadership and community growth. Gardens and greenhouses are perfect sites for student-led and community-based projects. These spaces facilitate the growth of environmental stewardship for students, teachers, and community participants. The investment in nurturing the soil and plants gives the community a sense of ownership and a common bonding ground. Practical knowledge in agriculture – experience in the dirt – is becoming a crucial building block for success in an economy that is rapidly becoming more focused on sustainability. Scholars, government officials, and companies alike are recognizing the need for employees to have knowledge and experience with the earth and its natural processes. Field experience in gardens andThurgood Marshall Academy, Washington D.C. 2009
  2. 2. greenhouses give students exposure to processes and spaces that will be valued as our society and economy transition to being green. Gardening Helps Us Reconnect with Our Food: Growing vegetables and plants raises students’ awareness of the connections between the land, our bodies, and our health. Obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer are some of the leading health problems in the United States – all of which are related to our eating practices learned as children.i Participating in the nurturing process and watching the plants grow through the months gives students access to understanding where foods come from and what gives it nutritional value. Growing food in gardens and greenhouses helps students not only understand the foundations of food, but make healthier and more environmentally responsible choices for their own eating habits. Gardens bring food back into the realm of culture and community. Most Americans eat highly processed foods in front of the TV or a computer screen, in the car, and often, alone. By engaging students and community members in the process of cultivation – nurturing whole, complete, unprocessed foods – gardens get people excited about real, healthy food that stems from the soil, not laboratories or factories. People who invest of time, work, and energy in growing their own food are much less likely to eat with indifference to what they are consuming or how they are consuming it. Gardens help bring families back to the dinner tables to eat together.ii To learn more about school food and healthy choices, see Earth Day Network’s Page on Healthy Food: Most American children, and many American adults, for that matter, have never witnessed any of the processes that produce the food that they and their families consume – not the farming, nor the transporting, processing, or packaging. Because we, as a society, are so divorced from the “roots” of our Belmont High School, Los Angeles, 2009 Bloom High School Greening, Chicago 2008 - Green House.
  3. 3. food, we barely know what’s in it, where it came from, or how it was made.iii School gardens and greenhouses remedy this disconnect – kids and young adults have the opportunity to engage in and influence the growing process. Many schools use the vegetables grown in school gardens for meals at the school. Depending on the size and scale of these gardens and greenhouses, a school gardening program may or may not generate enough food to significantly impact the school lunch program. Students and staff greatly benefit from those programs that are large enough to provide the cafeterias with fresh, organic, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and spices - they get to eat great food! Even smaller quantities can be sold at farmers’ markets or used in jams, salsas or other goods that can be sold to benefit the school and raise money to further support the garden. No matter the size of the program, students benefit. Many students’ interest in food is piqued by school gardens, and they will become engaged in agriculture, community gardens or CSAs, and culinary arts. By giving our students practical experience growing their own healthy, whole food, we give them the basic know-how for generating their own food, teaching others about food, and making healthy food choices for themselves and their families. Gardens and Greenhouses Can Be a Part of YOUR School: o Action Plan: encourage the school to get a school garden, greenhouse, or farm. olsrecreation o You can receive a grant to begin a school garden project: see the Department of Agriculture’s website: hy-communities-grant- program.html Edible Gardens Can Become an Integral Part of the Classroom: Lessons: Soils lesson plan: What’s In Your Food, What’s In Your Body Environmental Jeopardy Lesson:'s%20In%20Your%20Food,%20What's% 20In%20Your%20Body.pdf Organic Food, Organic Lifestyle Environmental Jeopardy:,%20Organic%20Lifestyle_E nvironmetal%20Jeopardy_Aug%202007.pdf Thurgood Marshall Academy, Washington D.C. 2009
  4. 4. For additional information on healthy food and schoolyard gardens, stay tuned for Earth Day Network’s school food documentary to be released in fall 2009! Resources: Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto & The Omnivore’s Dilemma Harvey Blatt’s America’s Food: What You Don’t Know About What You Eat Food Inc. i ii Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. The Penguin Press: NY, 2008. iii What we consume for sustenance is barely recognized as “food” by many nutritionists and scientists. Often our food – even fruits and vegetables – contains fewer nutrients and more chemicals than we think, as they are grown with substantial amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, and nitrogen that were added to overworked soil. These same chemicals that make food less nutritious for us also produce environmental damage in the form of toxic “run-off” that pollutes our rivers and groundwater and by degrading the soil across the country. Most food has been transported thousands of miles representing an enormous carbon footprint. Less than 21% of the energy used in the food system goes towards primary production; over 79% is dedicated to activities such as transporting, processing, and advertising. Blatt, Harvey. America’s Food: What You Don’t Know About What You Eat. Massachusettes Institute of Technology: MA, 2008.