PS 41 School Garden, New York City

Photo courtesy of our friends at PS-41 in New York City. Students study plants on their rooftop garden.

In celebration of Farm to School month, we’d like to focus on an integral part of farm to school programs: school gardens. Follow our step-by-step guide from gaining school approval to integrating lesson plans. School gardens offer a multitude of educational opportunities and health benefits, including building food literacy, enhancing fruit and vegetable consumption in children, improving physical activity, forming positive relationships, and promoting environmental stewardship.

1. Start small

Starting small will give everyone time to “test drive” the garden. It will also give you the opportunity to make sure it’s manageable. Don’t worry, there’s always room to grow.

2. Make a plan

There are many important aspects to consider when planning for your school garden. But first, focus on the basics. Be able to answer the following questions:

What purpose will your garden serve?

Your school garden could have many purposes. It could be a source of food production, assist in education or offer students a safe activity after school. Assess your school’s need and offer a solution.

Who will plan and maintain the garden?

Before you build, develop a thorough plan for keeping the garden tended. Be sure to consider the summer months when school is out.

How will the garden be funded?

Donations, grants and fundraising events could all be a source of funding for your garden. Request school administrators and parent groups for contributions from their budgets. Local partnerships with businesses can help gain access to resources and materials.

3. Grow support

Before you grow your garden, grow support. Ensure that you have administrative approval, teacher’s commitment, maintenance staff’s logistical support, and the encouragement of parents and the community.

4. Include the kids!

The planning and approval stage can be filled with logistics. But ultimately, a school garden is for the students. Look for ways to include them in the process. For example, ask students to envision what your garden will look like. Have students submit drawings and hold a contest.

Once you’ve completed these steps, you’re now ready to approach your school for the necessary approval. Click here for Starting a School Garden Part 2, where we’ll be discussing supplies.

More resources for starting a school garden:
Farm to School Garden Fact Sheet
Let’s Move School Garden Check List

Read the full Starting a School Garden Series here.