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Why School Gardens Now?

School gardens are more important now than ever before! We are in unprecedented times facing substantial challenges. The world needs informed, inspired, creative and collaborative leaders ready with the skills and motivation they need to work for justice, sustainability and healthy communities. We know that school gardens are exceptional classrooms where hands-on experiences bring learning to life. It is time for school garden champions to rise to the occasion to strategize and re-energize!

The challenges are big. We are facing the impacts of the climate crisis every day. Childhood obesity is on the rise. The pandemic has created increased stress, isolation and a psychological toll with long-term effects on kids. There is a growing awareness of the impacts of systemic racism on our everyday lives. Now is the time to bring a conversation about how school gardens support equity, sustainability and children’s health and wellbeing to the national level. 

Research shows that school gardens nurture healthy kids, foster environmental stewardship, promote engaged learning and empower community members. We know that when kids plant seeds, watch them grow and harvest them, they are more likely to eat healthy food, feel a connection to the world around them, and be engaged in their community. 

School gardens promote educational equity by ensuring that hands-on experiential learning opportunities are not just for a select few, but for all students. Whitney Cohen, Education Director at Life Lab sees gardens as “spaces where students develop a sense of empathy and empowerment, and can put that into action to improve their own lives, and also improve their schools and communities. For example, when students grow fresh fruits and vegetables, harvest and enjoy them, and share them with others, they develop skills in collaborative caretaking of plants and animals, and also of one another and their communities.” 

Now is the time to ask key questions: how can every school have a garden? How can all students benefit from this type of learning? How can we develop and strengthen programs that meet the needs of communities and are informed by local cultures and contexts? 

The school garden movement is mobilizing with an eye on long-term systems change. Groups like the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network and the National Farm to School Network are offering opportunities to connect and strategize on the local, regional and national level. Government agencies like the CDC have highlighted learning in school gardens as a key nutrition policy and practice that promotes social and emotional learning.  Schools are currently navigating how to re-envision an educational environment that supports student health and wellness while building skills and knowledge.  We know that school gardens have supported students and schools during COVID. Families are searching for avenues for their kids to be safe while enjoying the benefits of being outside. Now is the time to respond to these needs and share the power of learning in school gardens! 

Join us as we build on this momentum across the country. Share your knowledge, learn from others and help build a critical movement to foster healthier kids, communities and ultimately a healthier world. See you in Denver this April!

View the infographics and research briefs at www.growingschoolgardens.org/why-school-gardens
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