There are a number of ways that a school garden can make an impact beyond the students. Families, neighbors and others in the community can all have an opportunity to help maintain the school garden, and benefit from its presence.
Looking for ways to get creative in the garden?
- Send home a flyer with your students to invite families to participate in the garden. Parent involvement is especially helpful in the summer months, when school is not in session and students are not tending to the garden.
- Ensure that the garden is accessible to the community during the summer months. Is your garden located within a fence that is locked? Can it be accessed without the school being open?
- Consider getting in touch with the PTA to gauge parent interest.
- Invite your neighborhood association to participate in the garden. Often these are great ways to get the word out to your local community members.
- Consider renting out plots or raised beds, either for a fee or for no cost, to families in the neighborhood who are interested in gardening.
- Implement an organized maintenance chart so you know who is taking responsibility for the garden over the summer.
Schools typically follow three models when in comes to parent/community member involvement in the school garden:
- Families/ community members work with students during the school year. A parent or community member:
- Volunteers to help the teacher with the garden or to lead a gardening club.
- Provides support for existing garden, helping with planting and garden maintenance.
- Families/community members take care of the school garden when students are out of school. A parent or community member:
- Agrees to take care of the garden (regular watering and weeding) so that the garden stays alive throughout the summer.
- Picks and takes home any food that is ready to be harvested in the summer.
- Leads a gardening club for interested students.
- Hands garden responsibilities back over to the students when school year begins again.
- The school provides additional space for families/community members to have their own gardens on school grounds.
- If there is an interest from families/community members in having a space to grow their own fruits and vegetables, schools can create ground plots or add in raised beds for a community garden (separate from the plots/ beds used for the school garden).
- Appoint a family or community member to serve as the point person for coordinating activities (someone that can help communicate between the school and community gardeners).
- Discuss logistics such as access to locked spaces, hours allowed on school grounds and access to water.
- Use a deck box or plastic tote to store small garden tools, bags for harvesting, hose nozzles, etc. so that all the families have access to these tools.
Ideas for garden activities to involve families and community members:
- Cooking from the garden— Conduct cooking demonstrations and share recipes utilizing produce from the garden.
- Family workdays— families that want to be involved with the school garden, but lack the confidence or time to garden on their own can work together on a family workday.
- Garden Education workshops— host workshops on gardening topics, like common insects and weeds, how to start a home garden, etc.
- Harvest parties— host a harvest party or garden potluck to celebrate the season’s bounty.
- Fall garden preparation—organize a workday with families in late July or early August to get the garden ready for students’ return to school.
- Host school activities in the garden—use the garden for events like back to school night, parent-teachers conferences and more.