Back to all Project Ideas / Create or Tend a School Garden
There are many reasons to use the outdoors for learning, construct a space for nature play, and to maintain a garden at school. Connections with nature teach students about the important role of our natural world in our lives: providing wildlife refuge and habitat, soil and nutrients to grow food for our tables, and many benefits that can improve our communities and our daily lives.
Being outside is generally beneficial for our health, and the more we can help educators use the outdoors for learning and play, the better. Help your school create places that are easy and fun to use by working with students and school staff to make something that works for everyone. When it comes to a school garden, kids can see and learn about where their fruits and veggies come from, and there’s a good chance they are going to eat more of them. Whether they are container gardens, raised beds, fruit trees or herb gardens, school gardens serve as hands-on classrooms for students of all ages. You can use planting a garden with students as an opportunity to teach lessons about nutrient cycles and the environment, as well as teamwork, responsibility and nutritional values. Get your hands dirty by building an outdoor space at a school in your community.
Measure your impact
Record the type of outdoor space you’ve created or tended and the square footage of outdoor learning, garden, and/or nature play space on campus.
- Form a team of administrators, parents, teachers, students and other members of the school community who can help you set and achieve a goal. Make sure everyone knows the value of outdoor space for students, and then work with them to create a plan. The OK Recycling Association has a great guides for creating a school garden plan. If your goal is to create an outdoor learning space, Green Schoolyards America led an effort to create many resources to help schools do this during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- School gardens can be wonderful teaching tools and inspiration for students, but they must be maintained. If you’re bringing one to your school, ensure that you have spoken to your school district staff and that there is a maintenance plan in place with the necessary resources to make it sustainable in the long-term.
- If a school garden is in the plans, find out what makes sense to grow at or around your school by visiting local nurseries. Do a little online digging to connect to local master gardeners via the American Horticultural Society.
- Look for community support for your outdoor space, both for materials and for the manpower to make it happen. Reach out local companies to donate materials such as seating, soil or gardening equipment.
- Connect student learning with sustainability action. For this topic, you can access a free module in English and Spanish for elementary students called, "Wonderful World of Plants," through the Learning Lab platform. On the website, you can find other high-quality classroom content — over 450 lessons — for teachers from kindergarten to high school. To locate more lessons about plants and food, search by theme, learning standard, teaching method, or keyword.
Additional resources for guidance and funding ideas
- Check the Green Strides portal from the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program for updated resources from federal agencies and partners.
- Visit the National Farm to School Network web site for ideas, including their guide to starting and maintaining a school garden. October is National Farm to School Month in the U.S.
- Get help in establishing a schoolyard habitat from the National Wildlife Federation, which provides a seal of approval for wildlife habitats.
- Find funding ideas and planning help at KidsGardening.org.
- Use the Living Schoolyard Activity Guide from EcoSchools to use your school’s garden as a fun, outdoor area for physical activity.
Materials for this project
If applying for a mini-grant through the DonorsChoose.org site, these materials among others are included in the site's available vendors: