Urban Sprouts: 5-year retrospective


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A report outlining the history, model, and results of Urban Sprouts' five years of garden-based education programs

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Urban Sprouts: 5-year retrospective

  1. 1. Growing healthy schools and communities through garden-based education Lessons from our work: 2004-2009 Introduction | Growing support for school gardens With everyone from health professionals, educators, chefs, and our First Lady praising school gardens as a means to improve childhood education and alleviate the obesity epidemic, gardens are finally being recognized as a necessary addition to our schoolyards. Gardens can benefit youth by promoting academic enrichment, health and wellness, and ecological literacy. Given the right conditions gardens can have an even broader influence, fostering school cohesion, generating parental and community involvement, and improving local food access. Despite this momentum, many schools continue to face obstacles when starting their own gardens. Communities attempting to launch a school garden may suffer from uncertain funding, Our Mission a lack of specialized training, overburdened staff members, or cumbersome and prohibitive By cultivating school gardens in San policies. Such challenges may be especially acute in schools that serve low- and moderate- Francisco’s under-served neighbor- income populations, the same communities where access to nutritious foods and safe open hoods, Urban Sprouts partners with spaces is often limited. When youth have few opportunities in their neighborhood environments youth and their families to build eco-lit- to model and practice healthy behaviors, school gardens play an especially important role. eracy, equity, wellness, and community. Our roots | The history of Urban Sprouts Urban Sprouts was created in response to this need. In 2004, researchers Michelle Ratcliffe, PhD and Abby Jaramillo planted a garden at San Francisco’s Luther Burbank Middle School as part of a yearlong study on the multiple impacts of garden-based education on urban youth. The school’s staff, students, and parents were so excited with the results that they requested that the pair continue the garden program after the evaluation period; Urban Sprouts was born. School Programs Today, Urban Sprouts has expanded its reach to provide garden-based education to over 700 students annually in seven San Francisco middle and high schools. Students plant, harvest, cook, and eat healthy food from the garden, thus mastering science and nutrition concepts in a fun and hands-on way. Of the students we serve, School Partners Urban Sprouts provides garden-based • 60% are low-income students and over 95% are students of color, science and nutrition classes to over • 61% are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 700 students at these San Francisco • 22% are English Language Learners (ELL) students, middle and high schools: • and 90% failed to reach physical fitness standards in 2006. Aptos Middle School Ida B. Wells Continuation Community Programs International Studies Academy In addition to school programs, Urban Sprouts deepens its impact in the community by June Jordan Continuation High School collaborating with youth and families outside of the classroom. Our Summer Program, a Log Cabin Ranch MLK Middle School continued on next page SF Community School www.urbansprouts.org | 451 hayes st. 2nd floor | san francisco, ca 94102
  2. 2. “The garden helps you do better in school because it keeps you healthy.” 6th grade student, 2007 Community Programs (continued) collaboration with our partner organization Garden for the Environment, has provided extensive youth employment and leadership opportunities to over 50 youth from 2007-2009. Farmers-in-Residence, our newest program, brings parents together to exchange cooking knowledge and to grow vegetables at our school gardens. Research & Training Program evaluation and research have remained a critical part of what we do. Urban Sprouts works closely with schools to adapt the garden program to state science and nutrition educational standards. We continually evaluate this curriculum through focused reflections, staff assessments, and annual program reviews, and share these research results at conferences and workshops nationwide. Our Program Model | Garden-Based Education (GBE) for youth development and health The garden and nutrition educators at Urban Sprouts collaborate with teachers to create interactive activities tailored to their students. The Urban Sprouts Garden-Based Education model acknowledges that a student’s development is influenced by her environment, behavior, and personal factors, and a successful garden program will address each of these components. Our understanding of these connections helps us to design programs that empower students to make healthier choices, feel more confident in their schoolwork, and improve their community.1 The garden provides an ideal setting where these positive actions can take root. By providing a place where youth can nurture living things, enjoy healthy foods, and work towards a common goal, school gardens are a powerful tool for building community. While the model may seem abstract in the day- to-day business of running our gardens, it helps us see our work in a broader context. It can also be a useful guide for educators starting a new garden program or for those evaluating an existing program. Starting in 2010, we plan to unveil a training and workshop program to share our expertise with more schools. ___________________________________________ 1 Ratcliffe, M. M. (2007) Garden-based education in school settings: The effects on children’s vegetable consumption, vegetable preferences and ecoliteracy. Ph.D. Dissertation, Tufts University. www.urbansprouts.org | 451 hayes st. 2nd floor | san francisco, ca 94102
  3. 3. “Students who work in the garden improve their self- esteem and work better with others... The garden increases our sense of school com- munity, identity and culture.” School counselor, 2007 Reaping Results Findings from our program evaluation We have already begun to see how gardening has transformed the schools where we work. Each year, we conduct an in-depth evalu- ation of our programs, using our Garden-Based Education model to assess our results. Our evaluation tools include pre/post surveys and focus group interviews with students, and individual interviews with school staff. Here are some of our findings: high low somewhat Food Awareness low After completing our programs students can identify a greater number of fruits somewhat low and vegetables, and report an increased willingness to eat them. somewhat high average average high nutrition knowledge before summer program somewhat high nutrition knowledge food preferences & willingness to try new foods: after summer program 2009 Summer 2008 Summer Healthy Eating 2007 Summer Beyond cultivating an awareness of healthy foods, the garden programs actually mo- tivate students to seek out and prepare more nutritious meals. ISA Middle School ISA High School I tried no new foods & didn’t change my opinion of any foods I tried some new foods but didn’t change my opinion of any foods I tried foods that I didn’t like before and now I like them Teachable Moments Many teachers and school staff applaud the garden as an invaluable tool for reinforcing concepts from the classroom. In addition, teach- ers note that the garden is an environment where students and adults create trusting relationships. Here are some quotes from our interviews: “... Science needs to be hands on and it needs to be outside of the classroom sometimes. And for me, my first year being here, it was hard for me to find ways to do that. So the garden was just extremely useful, for allowing me to take my kids through a program to go do stuff hands on outside of the classroom. -- 7th grade teacher “…We make the students more aware of eating healthy foods. And then growing them in the garden, making them aware of the vitamins and all that benefits of eating healthy food... it makes students aware that it doesn’t take that much to grow vegetables. And also they can learn to grow them in their own backyard too, and then help prepare them too. “ -- 6th grade teacher “Sometimes if they’re being a little wild, somebody will say, “Hey, calm down, we’ve got the garden today. We’ve got to go the garden.” You know, they worry that they won’t get to go to the garden.” -- 7th grade teacher www.urbansprouts.org | 451 hayes st. 2nd floor | san francisco, ca 94102
  4. 4. fundraising 4% service fees administration 22% Our financial health 10% individuals FY 2008-09 Budget: $225,996 8% foundations program: 18% salaries Expenses and revenues are shown from our program: materials 55% 2008-2009 fiscal year budget. Urban Sprouts government 21% Expenses is fiscally sponsored by Neighborhood Parks 64% Council, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization Revenues based in San Francisco, CA. Lessons | learning from our experiences After thoughtful reflection on our work, here are what we have identified as our greatest strengths and areas for growth: Strengths Challenges Program reach • Over 700 middle and high schoolers in Demanding school • Schools are facing high turnover and & expansion bi-weekly garden classes. environments inadequate funding. • Additional after-school, summer, and • Chaotic school culture, stressed teachers family programs. and difficult classroom management. • Students report healthier behaviors and • Schools must take on increasing Positive youth attitudes. Program sustainability responsibility if gardens are to become a outcomes • Gardens provide leadership and youth standard part of public education. employment opportunities. • The role of garden educator must become professionalized through • Garden curriculum is tailored to schools, training & support. School & community- reinforcing the learning environment. level outcomes • Partnerships with community members Wider food and social • Limited neighborhood food access, poor- & institutions. environment quality school lunches & skewed food policies limit students’ nutritional choices Taken as a sum, here are some of the most valuable lessons we have learned: • Collaboration has been key to our success. This has been crucial in building relationships with school & community partners. • Growth has provided us with opportunities and challenges. Our fast expansion has forced us to constantly evaluate our programs, making us a streamlined organization and helping us realize our strengths and areas for improvement. • Youth and family leadership is an indicator of program success, and is essential for achieving program sustainability and change at the community level. • Other programs can learn from our experiences. We have gained invaluable skills and insights from our work in San Francisco, and we believe other school garden programs can benefit from this. www.urbansprouts.org | 451 hayes st. 2nd floor | san francisco, ca 94102
  5. 5. for more information: Abby Jaramillo, Executive Director abby@urbansprouts.org www.urbansprouts.org Conclusion | Strategies moving forward Urban Sprouts has grown and learned during the past five years. We have developed our staff roles, streamlined our curriculum and evaluation process, strengthened relationships with schools and families, and formed partnerships with other community members and organizations. The organization is now at a critical moment. In our next phase, we hope to share our work and collaborate with partners beyond San Francisco. Fortunately, there are a growing number of organizations doing this work and evermore people are aware of the need for school gardens. Unfortunately, we are also at a moment when many organizations are shrinking or shutting their doors. Given the difficult economic climate, how will we Acknowledgments sustain our success, attract new funding, and continue to expand our services? Here are our immediate next steps: Urban Sprouts would like to thank the hard-working and creative teachers, students and staff at our • Strengthen our parent program to cultivate local advocates for improving food access. partner schools and organizations: • Increase our visibility to take advantage of public’s growing awareness of food issues. Aptos Middle School • Continue our board-directed strategic planning process & identify new funding sources. Excelsior Middle School • Develop our training program to share our expertise with other schools and educators. International Studies Academy June Jordan School for Equity MLK Jr. Middle Scool SF Community School Log Cabin Ranch Ida B. Wells Continuation HS Garden for the Environment Our programs are made possible by generous support from individuals and these funding organizations: Mitchell Kapor Foundation Network for a Healthy California SF Dept. of Children,Youth & Families SF Dept. of the Environment San Francisco Foundation SF Unified School District Joseph R. McMicking Foundation Morris Stulsaft Foundation Hut Foundation www.urbansprouts.org | 451 hayes st. 2nd floor | san francisco, ca 94102