Using & teaching
Food gardens are a wonderful place to inspire children to taste new, healthy foods, investigate their relationship with the environment, learn about the living things around them, and have fun. The garden can also serve as a space for tours, community events, potlucks, volunteer activities, and more. The garden is a tool to engage parents and neighbors and build strong relationships that will sustain the garden long-term. As you use the garden, don’t forget to take time to celebrate and take photos to document your progress!
There are many ways to use the school garden harvest:
Consumption at the school (in the cafeteria or classrooms)
Donating (food pantries, families, neighbors)
Direct marketing (at a farmers’ market or farmstand)
Round Rock ISD's Food Services has developed a guide for how to create a school garden. Food Services can assist in procuring the same type(s) of produce that is harvested from the garden but meets the volume and food safety requirements to be served in the school’s cafeteria for everyone to enjoy.
Have a plan for managing your class to make the experience better for all.
Set expectations before you go out – will they be the same as in your classroom, or will you need to make adjustments, like a different bathroom procedure?
Create garden rules together and post them in the classroom or in the garden to review before entering the garden.
Try to give the students time to investigate the space before you have them sit down. They usually want to see what has changed or if there is anything new before they are ready to sit and listen.
Establish routine tasks that take place when you enter the garden (e.g. observation, measuring, journaling).
Assign the students to groups and have them sit on blankets with clipboards or at tables. It is easier to manage a group than individuals.
Have a means of carrying supplies – take a carry-all for each group, such as a bucket with a caddy, for student and teacher supplies.
You may have to be heard over a larger space, so make sure you have a signal that everyone can hear (e.g. wolf howl, gong).
What you can teach often starts with the type of garden you have created. One type of garden would be a themed garden that has a clear purpose. For example, if you create a pizza garden, you grow produce to make pizza sauce and pizza toppings during the spring and have a pizza party at the end of the season. You can even make the garden in the shape of a pizza with designated slices for growing each ingredient. You can use the garden to teach math concepts like geometric shapes, fractions, positions of the compass (if the garden is align with the cardinal directions), diameter, perimeter and radius. For science you can teach stages of the life cycle of a plan, the properties of soil. Add a bit of fennel and you will be able to teach complete metamorphosis when the ladybugs and Black Swallowtail butterflies show up. The garden is a small ecosystem for Life Science studies.
For Social Studies you can investigate how tomatoes from the Andes Mountains made it into Italian cuisine and follow with a migration study. A great start to a Language Arts writing/poetry assignment is to let the class sit in a circle around the pizza garden for inspiration. You can also have the students write instructions of how to install a garden or make pizza sauce. This is just one example of a theme garden.Others can be the Native American Three Sisters Garden, Medicine Chest Garden or a WWII Victory Garden. Each one has its own special topics that can be taught.
You can teach students about Nutrition and healthy lifestyles by sampling or cooking with the garden produce. Create a salad with all the colors to teach about the vitamins and nutrients in various vegetables and the importance of variety in a diet. Teach basic cooking techniques like sautéing and steaming as well as skills from washing to chopping. Taste, touch, smell, and feel herbs, and use them in recipes to demonstrate how herbs can add flavor to a dish and reduce the need for salt. Students are more likely to try a new vegetable if they’ve grown it themselves, so remember to eat and enjoy the garden harvest!
There is enough curricula already available that you just need to find what works for your class. Here are a few sites to get you started: [Needs editing - more free resources?].
Biomimicry Institute: Resource toolkit for biomimicry education for K-12 (free)
Broccoli to Butterflies: A September-May gardening guide for planting cool-weather vegetables and herbs to attract pollinators (free)
Cooking with Kids: Cooking lessons for elementary level (paid)
Columba University: LiFE curricula for grades 4-8 (paid)
Eat. Think. Grow: Garden lessons for fall, winter, and spring for K-5, Portland-based (free)
EcoRise Youth Innovations: Sustainability curriculum for grades K-12 (paid)
Edible Schoolyard: Database with K-12 edible education curricula
Junior Master Gardener: Curricula for elementary and middle school (paid)
Kids Gardening: Compilation of activity guides and resources about gardening (paid)
Life Lab: The Growing Classroom, a garden-based activity guide for science, math, language arts, and nutrition (paid)
National Wildlife Federation: Access Nature curriculum for grades K-8 (paid)
Slow Food USA: Good, Clean, and Fair School Garden Curricula (paid)
Texas A&M University: Gardening lesson plans by month for K-12 (free)
Sustainable Food Center: School Garden Activity Guide with activities on gardening, food systems, and cooking for upper elementary, middle, and high school (paid)
Want to learn more about integrating the garden into the classroom? Check out adult education opportunities on the Explore & Connect page.
Attend workshops, classes, and trainings led by the following organizations in Central Texas and across the U.S.: