Education Cultivation is our K-5 program, which allows every student in a school of approximately 500 students to engage in hands-on gardening activities through lessons that support the science curriculum. In the Education Cultivation program, students experience “seed to table” growing each and every growing season, spring AND fall. We accomplish this in a relatively small garden space by:
- Using fast-growing, cool-weather crops, such as spinach, that can be harvested 6 – 8 weeks after planting
- Employing intensive gardening practices and direct seeding, which allows up to 200 students to plant seeds with their own hands each growing season in a 250 sq ft garden
- Designing lessons so that each grade level has a special job to do in the garden each growing season which ties-in with their curriculum. For example, 2nd graders prepare the soil for planting at the beginning of the growing season and clean up the garden at the end, because soil composition and composting are required elements of the 2nd grade science curriculum.
Education Cultivation Garden lessons provide opportunities for students to use all of their senses and make learning fun, regardless of students’ learning styles and capabilities. Each lesson is 45 minutes in length, and includes an introductory piece that is taught in the classroom, followed by a hands-on gardening piece. The program can be modified to fit the needs of a particular school, but a typical program includes the following:
- Kindergarten and First Grade plant the seeds, which ties in with their plants and organisms curricula, respectively.
- Second Grade prepares the soil at the beginning of the growing season. They also clean the garden, and compost the garden waste at the end of the growing season
- Third Grade waters the garden until the seeds germinate, which ties in with their water-cycle studies. They also receive a vegetable nutrition lesson, which ties in with their human body curriculum.
- Fourth and Fifth Grades harvest the crops, which supports their studies of plant life-cycles and ecosystems, respectively.
Most of our Education Cultivation schools are located in Delaware’s Brandywine, Christina, Colonial and Red Clay School Districts, where we have been fortunate enough to collaborate Nutrition Services. As a result, almost all of the harvested vegetables are served in the school cafeterias at lunch, so that all students have an opportunity to taste the vegetables they have grown. Some of the vegetables may also be used for in-class cooking demonstrations, given away to school faculty and volunteers, donated to The Food Bank of Delaware or similar organizations, or used for after-school events.
The Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids Program originated at Springer Middle School. It is similar to Education Cultivation, except that 7th grade science students are responsible for all of the garden tasks, and the vegetables are served in the classrooms. The garden lessons tie in with 7th grade’s Diversity of Life and Genetics units.
The implementation period for Education Cultivation is usually two growing seasons. During that time, responsibility for running the program is progressively transferred from Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids to the school.
In the beginning:
- Schools are largely responsible for raising the funds necessary for establishing and supporting the garden program. HFHK will provide assistance in the form of a budget and examples of successful grant applications, and sometimes writes grants to fund school gardens.
- HFHK provides guidance for selecting the school’s Garden Coordinator and establishing the Garden Steering Committee (GSC).HFHK facilitates initial GSC meetings. The GSC/Garden Coordinator are responsible for maintaining the continuity of the garden program.
- Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids will oversee and coordinate garden building, and the school is responsible for recruiting volunteers.
First Growing Season:
HFHK works with school staff to schedule garden lessons and activities, and models all lessons by teaching the appropriate HFHK lesson to every class and teacher in the school, so that teachers who are not familiar with gardening can learn how to manage their class in the garden.
Second Growing Season:
An HFHK staff member meets with each grade level team in the school to prepare teachers for taking over the responsibility of teaching the HFHK lessons and taking their students to the garden. During the meeting, we explain how to use the HFHK Teachers' Manual and other HFHK resources, and review teacher responsibilities. At this stage, teachers take over the responsibility of teaching the lessons, and the Garden Coordinator takes over the scheduling responsibilities.
After the implementation period is completed, an HFHK staff member continues to meet with the school's Garden Coordinator before each growing season (contingent upon HFHK having internal funding available). HFHK also provides each school with a garden map tailored to the school’s needs, a customized garden planting kit for each teacher whose class wil be planting the garden, updated lessons, incidental supplies, at least one site visit per year, and gardening advice/technical assistance. Continuation of these services is dependent on HFHK internal funding being available. HFHK is indebted to The Eliason Education and Greening Grant for helping to sustain our gardens.