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How to start a school garden

Schools nationwide are letting kids get their hands dirty while they learn. Here's a step-by-step guide to starting a thriving school garden of your own.

By Leslie Crawford

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School gardens: Growing like weeds

Over the past few years, school gardens nationwide have been growing like, well, weeds. (In California alone, there are 6,000 school gardens.) The concept got an extra boost in 2009, when First Lady Michelle Obama worked with children to turn a patch of White House lawn into a vegetable garden.

Why are school gardens a priority? They connect kids directly to nature (an increasing rarity with children spending more time indoors); they also teach kids the beauty of growing and eating whole, healthy food (potato chips don't grow on trees). What's more, a garden can act as a vibrant outdoor classroom. According to Arden Bucklin-Sporer, co-author of How to Grow a School Garden (Timber learning Inc. 2010), "Every single curriculum standard – math, reading, science – can be enhanced by a garden-based lesson." Even better, says Bucklin-Sporer, a school garden has a miraculous way of building community, uniting parents, teachers, and children, who literally get to harvest what they sow by working together.

Bucklin-Sporer, who has helped sprout some 80 San Francisco school gardens, shares her step-by-step advice about how to start and maintain a successful school garden.

is a senior editor at GreatSchools.

Comments from readers

"What a wonderful article! Thank you! I am inspired to look into how I can help create a garden at my kids' middle school."