School Garden Forum

Encouraging Schools to Build and Expand Gardens
Feb. 5, 2011, Iowa City Public Library

Farm to School is developing a district-wide set of resources to help schools start new gardens, expand their existing garden, and integrate gardens in the classroom. On February 5, 2011, Farm to School and Backyard Abundance hosted a School Garden Forum that was attended by teachers, parents, and principals from 14 ICCSD schools and Willowwind School.

At the forum we discussed ideas for starting and maintaining school gardens. Fred Meyer of Backyard Abundance gave a presentation about the possibilities of school gardens – from container gardens and small raised beds, to fully integrated outdoor nature play areas and gardens. Brian Fleck, the school gardener at Hills Elementary, shared some lessons that he’s learned both starting his garden and working with students in the garden. The participants talked about ways to build community support for school gardens, to encourage families and community members to help maintain the gardens during the summer, and finding ways to use abundant summer produce.

The School Garden Forum was followed up by a survey that went out to all 25 ICCSD school principals, asking about their interest in starting a school garden and determining how soon they’d like to get started. Survey results are available on our School Gardens page.

Once some schools started thinking seriously about starting a garden, they quickly gained support from their PTO, parents, and community members, and started building their gardens. This spring five schools started school gardens (Kirkwood Elementary, Coralville Central Elementary, West High, Penn Elementary and Longfellow Elementary) and three schools had existing gardens (Hills Elementary, Tate High, and Grant Wood Elementary). More details about the community partners involved with each of the school gardens is available on our School Gardens page.

To help school gardeners connect with each other, Farm to School will be creating a School Garden Web page and blog. We also coordinated a garden tour in April 2011, hosted by Mark Jensen at Tate High School. Mark took us on a tour of Tate’s (12) 6′ x 20′ raised garden beds, and provided helpful tips and ideas for what to grow and how to get students working in the garden.

During the 2011-12 school year Farm to School is planning to conduct a workshops to help get teachers thinking about ways to integrate the gardens in the classroom, and to help schools learns ways to start and expand their gardens.