Every year I make big plans for the garden. Maybe I promise I’ll keep the toolshed more organized, get my seeds started sooner, or stay on top of weeds better. No matter how big or small the job, it’s a challenge to maintain focus amidst the many other demands of the school year and teaching career.
One way I motivate myself to embrace the work of the garden is to reframe chores as opportunities. This strategy works especially well when engaging youth. Take the following examples:
- Weed-pulling games turn a monotonous task into a fun way to get exercise. (See When Weeds Get in the Way, January 23, 2019.)
- Seed starting teams transform a time-consuming detail into social hour (See Aspiring Soil Engineers Design a Perfect Seed-Starting Mix, April 16, 2018.)
- Bug collecting contests minimize pests who feed on edible plants (See The “Touchy” Subject of Exploring Bugs in the Garden, February 27, 2017.)
- Watering schedules make a stressful duty an invitation for participation and involvement. (See Four Ways to Labor Less, September 5, 2016.)
Another surefire way to inspire action in the school garden is to join a professional learning community (PLC). Grounded in a results-orientated approach, a PLC instills a culture of collaboration that builds capacity, camaraderie, and commitment. I know many individuals who maintain a single school garden in isolation, but to really sustain a school garden program over time and, more aspirational, grow a school garden movement, it takes the support of a professional learning community.
There are many ways to create or join a Professional Learning Community (PLC) of garden educators!
- Purchase, borrow, or download a book about garden education, such as Teaching in Nature’s Classroom, Core Principles of Garden-Based Education (right).
- Sign up for newsletters, blogs, and updates from local garden-, nature-, or environmental-education organizations.
- Attend an event, workshop, symposium, or conference to meet like-minded individuals and swap ideas, strategies, and resources.
- Subscribe to a regional network such as the School Garden Network of Sonoma County.
- Start or join a local group of garden educators who convene regularly, like the Napa Valley School Garden Network.
All classroom teachers start the year with the best intentions to be more…more organized, more efficient, more present. Fill in the blank and a teacher has likely aspired to it.
Garden educators know that maintaining a garden classroom is a labor of love, but centering ourselves on the reason we do what we do and growing our practice with colleagues is a one way to foster collegiality as well as achieve greater outcomes for our students.
Please get in touch if you are looking to join a virtual PLC or have inspiration from a PLC near you. Whatever route you take to collaborating, I hope you have a top-notch year of growth in the garden and in yourself.
In Teaching in Nature’s Classroom: Core Principles of Garden-Based Education, Nathan Larson shares a philosophy of teaching in the garden. Rooted in years of experience and supported by research, Larson presents fifteen guiding principles of garden-based education.https://www.teachinginnaturesclassroom.org/
For additional book recommendations, see Top Five Reads for Growing a Learning Garden.