Last week I spoke to a little boy – about 8 years old – that was shocked to learn that broccoli did not come from a factory. He was even more astounded at the idea that he could grow it himself could grow it in a small container at home on his deck.
Sadly, I feel this is a common theme repeated across most of the world. Industrialization has brought many great advancements to our society but, because we get wrapped up in it, we have never been further from our roots. Not only are we doing our children a disservice but the future of our planet will suffer if we allow this kind of disconnect to go unchecked.
This is where garden based learning (GBL) can help.
What is garden based learning?
Wikipedia provides a concise definition of GBL as:
essentially an instructional strategy that utilizes the garden as a teaching tool.
But this definition is so profoundly simple that it is easy for people to miss out on the true value of garden based learning. Students that have gone through a school-based program have told me that it adds to their sense of self, the connection between food and environment, nutritional awareness, boosts self-esteem, and, for many urban students, provides them a connection to nature that is lacking due to their geography. Many GBL alums come away with a vocation that has the potential to alter the course of their family for generations. In this manner, students learn self reliance and food security – indispensable skills that they bring into adulthood.
Garden based learning has become a world wide phenomenon but bringing it to your school involved can be a bit tricky without the proper resources.
Garden based learning resources
Based in Santa Cruz, CA – available nationwide. Life Lab has worked with young people in the garden for over 30 years. What started as a small garden at a single California school has grown into a national leader in garden based education programs. They work directly with educators to help them engage the students in the program to get them excited about working in a garden or on a farm. They also are open for field trips, camps, and workshops.
Based in and serving the State of California, CSGN’s stated goal is to help school districts create and sustain gardens in every willing school in California. This is an honorable, lofty, yet achievable goal given California’s 10,000+ schools. Their primary purpose is to serve as a distribution point for garden based learning resources as well as provide support for all school garden programs.
Based in Cambridge, MA and serving Boston, Lynn, Gloucester, and Cambridge public schools. City Sprouts’ goal is to ensure that hands-on learning in a school garden is part of every student’s education. After working with school administrators to incorporate garden based learning into the curriculum, City Sprouts provides continued support and secondary programs that keep children engaged.
Based in and serving the State of Texas, Real School Gardens incorporates cross-discipline academics and community building into the program. Currently they support school garden programs that affect the lives of over 50,000 children – boosting academic outcomes, encouraging healthy living, fostering life skills, and promoting proper environmental stewardship.
Based in and serving the State of New York. As part of Cornell University Cooperative Extension, this organization not only works with schools and community groups but with individual homeowners as well. Their goal to bring the joy and knowledge of gardening to as many as possible is achieved in part through their blog on which you can find activities, videos, planning tools, and opportunities for community connections.
These 5 resources just barely scratch the surface of the myriad of options available for you to begin a garden based learning project. Every state in the nation has GBL projects started and nearly every community with a school can participate – all you have to do is make the first step to contact one of these (or similar) organizations. Please contact us if you need assistance in finding a GBL program in your area.