Giving Compass’ Take:
• Cambridge Public Schools took the initiative to integrate garden-based learning in its school district through educational planning and partnership with CitySprouts. CitySprouts is a school garden program that helps school districts document the garden use for educational programming.
• How can donors offer support to other school districts that want to embed garden-based learning into its curriculum?
When does a public school district decide that it’s worthwhile to invest in building school gardens? The Boston Schoolyard Initiative built more than 30 outdoor classrooms in the city’s public schools, driven by the mayor’s strong interest and commitment. San Francisco Unified School District benefitted when school garden advocates aligned themselves with ADA compliance mandates.
As the director of CitySprouts, a school garden program operating in 21 urban schools across Boston and Cambridge, I appreciate the public awareness ‘lift’ from these high profile initiatives. A rising tide raises all boats, JFK famously noted, and that is certainly true for the movement to integrate garden-based learning in public school education.
Sometimes, however, school gardens are given life, not through the largess (or mandate) from outside forces but driven by a school district’s own educational plan– to meet the needs of nontraditional learners, for instance, or narrow the science achievement gap between different groups of students. When school gardens are recognized as a means to make educational opportunities more equitable to all students, school districts look up and pay attention.
That’s the story in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Based on a district facility plan adopted in 2010, Cambridge Public Schools has begun building new school gardens in all new school construction. To date, the district has completed a rooftop school garden in a new (2015) school. Built a ground-level school garden as part of a schoolyard playground renovation in another school (2019). Cambridge will have yet another school garden with a new school opening this fall. And the city is in the feasibility stage with a third new school.
Cambridge Public Schools doesn’t distinguish the physical school garden from its usefulness as an educational resource to teachers and its accessibility to all its students. CitySprouts reinforces this connection by documenting the level to which the garden is incorporated in each school’s educational programming.
Read the full article about integrating garden-based learning into school districts by Jane Hirschi at Children & Nature Network.
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