For the past fifteen years or so, gardens have become an increasingly important part of the school curriculum. By the 2012-2013 academic year, 26.6 percent of all public elementary schools in the United States had garden programs, the majority of them in the West, the Northeast, and the South. (“The blossoming health and academic benefits of school gardens," cnn.com, posted 8/14/2015). The school garden movement gained momentum with the opening of Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden in March, 2009. For Obama, as well as many school educators, a garden seemed an excellent place to teach kids (and their parents) to value nature, to learn where their food comes from and to instill healthy eating habits, and to stimulate student curiousity about science, the environment, mathematics, social responsibility, and other important educational values.
Our El Dorado School Community Garden began at the forefront of this movement, led by a crew of dedicated Eldorado folks who were convinced of the social and educational value of their project. Within a three month window in the spring of 2009, they negotiated a package from the school that included land, water, fencing, a greenhouse, a shed, teaching and social spaces, and most important, support for the garden as an essential part of learning.
Today there are many vibrant school gardens throughout the country and powerful support organizations for those gardens, as well as a growing body of scholarship that documents the experiential learning benefits of garden curriculums. School gardens have been found to impact children’s interpersonal relationships, to change their attitudes toward fruits and vegetables, to provide students with new vocabularies with which to approach and evaluate their worlds, and to offer students a new sense of accomplishment and self-esteem that comes from growing things that they can eat.
For more information about school garden scholarship, a good place to begin is Google Scholar, entering “school gardens benefits” as your search criteria.
Some other useful organizations include: