By Louann Talbert
“Can we go out to the garden more often?” my students would say to me, back when I was still teaching. How I loved to hear that question! One of my greatest joys was when I figured out how to connect my love of nature and gardening to what my students needed to learn. I have many pictures of them out in the sunshine, planting, harvesting, weighing, exploring, discussing, asking questions.
Being a teacher who uses a school garden is not an easy task! There is a lot of hard work, physical and intellectual, as we plan, communicate, till, weed, haul, write grants for funds, convince, cajole and supervise. And we do all of this with, usually, no extra pay (although the extra hours are many), and little recognition for all we do above and beyond the teaching norm. We do it because we love to be outside and know that children do too. We do it because we love to see children explore and develop questions and ideas based on their real experiences. We do it because we feel a responsibility to teach a love for the beauty and intricacy of nature which we hope will lead to a strong sense of stewardship for our planet.
Donate to the Cause
Given the challenges schools have faced in the last two years, garden teachers (and kids) need more support from the community than ever before. Returning to full-time, in-person teaching after 18 months of uncertainty may have left many school garden teachers with little stamina for garden tasks, especially fundraising. That’s why we’re so excited to be part of CanDo’s Napa Valley Give!Guide this year! The Napa School Garden Learning Network, a longstanding grassroots collective, is raising money to provide “seed money” grants to teachers who are just getting started with garden-forward pedagogy and continuing support grants for teachers who have school gardens and are bringing them back to life.
Resilient Action for Challenging Times
Teachers are a resilient bunch and school garden educators are the epitome of resilience! We will tough through this time and can come out stronger and more focused on what we want to accomplish with our school gardens. Despite these challenging times, when our access to each other and (for some of us, our gardens) has been limited, we won’t give up on our vision of garden education! It just needs a little tweaking right now. This is the perfect time to examine new ways to use our gardens. Do you want to take a new direction with how students explore and use your garden? Do you want to incorporate more nutrition, soil science, art, poetry, or social and emotional learning into your use of the school garden? Many have suggested that this can be a time of reflection for us all and definitely for school garden teachers to envision their gardens.
To those of us who consider ourselves school garden teachers and those of us who aspire to be one, let’s not give up our visions and desires to take students out into the garden during these challenging times! Whether you all went outside once a week, once a month, after school, whenever, our students are still craving outdoor exploration and learning today. For those wishing to support this effort, new teachers are eager to tap into the rich learning environments gardens provide. With your help, we can grow our community together.