In my 12 years growing up in the Lake Washington School District, I never attended a school that had a school garden program. This is not uncommon: of the nine high schools, nine middle schools and 13 elementary schools I contacted in the district, only about a third of them have school gardens which students have the opportunity to participate in directly.
As a student who really struggled in school through all of those 12 years, I am certain that participating directly in a gardening experience would have been transformative. I believe I could have cultivated a valuable understanding of my relationship to the ecological world around me, creating an awareness earlier on of the need for sustainable practices, and I believe this learning would have contributed to me becoming a stronger, more integrated and passionate student as a whole. I believe this is true for all students, and especially for those that struggle most in school. Even those that don't encounter as much struggle would benefit from a more holistic, interactive education.
Further, immense value comes from working in a garden that grows food. This creates immediate connections to our perception of food, and so has great implications for students' learning about food choices and nutrition. Diet is also related to attention and students' success in school.
I urge local parents, administrators, teachers and community members to give students an educational gardening experience, and especially to grow edible plants. There is more than one way to do this, but there is one place I know of to turn to for support: the Whole Kids Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Whole Foods Market, provides grants to schools to build gardens. In other words, the funds are available – someone just has to ask for them!
School gardens can be incorporated into general, or many elective, science curriculums, home ec or even health classes – there's many different ways to tie gardening into learning. It is valuable to do this as soon as possible – there may be a student, even your child, right now who struggles in school and would benefit from working and caring for a school garden.
Rachel Dreyfuss from Redmond, WA