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Iowa City, IA
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Get a Fresh Start for Your School Garden
A new school year brings the opportunity for new additions and approaches for learning inside and out of the classroom. The anticipation of summer can often leave the school garden neglected at the end of the school year, as assemblies and field trips occupy the schedule. A few months of summer vacation can take its toll on the outdoor learning spaces so a fresh start is often necessary to re-gain control of the school garden.
Begin the task by investing the interest of your students. It is important to continue the establishment of ownership with each new group of students. Help them to understand the importance of their contributions by determining the new goals, potential outcomes and service projects together. Their stewardship will increase if they are held accountable for a portion of the planning. It is also beneficial to include the students in determining what jobs need to be done to accomplish a fresh start. Having them make the list of necessary jobs and then assigning those jobs through a drawing or other random means will ensure that students don’t single out the easiest jobs for themselves! It is equally important to include the help of your volunteers near the beginning of the school year. It might take a while for the relationship between the volunteers and the students to “warm up to each other.” Working side-by-side from the beginning is a good way to get your garden off to a successful start.
If you already have a school garden established, here are some potential gardening assignments.Assign garden jobs Collecting weeds and dumping in trash Collecting compostable materials and dumping in compost Collecting trash (old plant labels/trash blown in over the summer/etc) and throw in trash can Pull dead plants Prune back overgrown plants Watering (If your garden has several planting areas they can be divided so multiple students have the opportunity to water.) Groups of students can be assigned the task of selecting plants for a fall garden Involve students in the process of selecting locations in the garden for expansion and enhancement. (ex: where to put a compost pile, where to add a butterfly garden, where to add display signs)
A fresh start is also important as it relates to students’ health. Again, the same principles apply—if you allow your students to help set the nutritional goals for the school year the more likely they will eat the fruits/vegetables grown. Allowing students to sample produce fresh from the garden could potentially hook them not only to gardening, but eating fruits and vegetables for life! When the garden isn’t ready for harvest encourage students to bring in fruits and vegetables from home for lunch and snacks. Continually remind yourself that having fun is important. Nutrition is a serious topic, but not every lesson plan or activity needs to have incredible intensity. Keeping it light and interesting can be a refreshing break...