NEEM advocates the use of sustainable plant-based learning across the curriculum. Training teachers to incorporate the use of outdoor gardens, natural settings and plant activities in their classroom lessons achieve this goal. Our goal is to help make plant-based learning a part of every school child’s education.
NEEM wants to assist groups to plan for, design, install and maintain school community gardens of all styles, purposes, and sizes.
Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of NEEM’s school gardening efforts are to help schools establish and develop the following:
- a site leadership team
- participation by local area chefs
- a working garden for use as a living laboratory to support teaching and learning
- a well-trained teaching faculty
- a network of school garden projects throughout the city to provide ongoing support
- a network of parents and community who actively participate in garden activities
- a student body engaging in active discovery through interdisciplinary learning
Planning and Design
To achieve these objectives, NEEM will help facilitate a participatory design process with students and teachers prior to garden construction. Meetings with educators and students determine how they wish to use the garden for class activities, where the garden will be located on their school campus, and what features and plants they would like the garden to have. A concept plan is developed from teacher and student ideas to reflect their vision, and this conceptual plan is presented to educators and students for feedback and approval. The school identifies appropriate ownership zones for each classroom wanting to adopt a portion of the garden.
Construction and Planting
Garden construction focuses on building the infrastructure for planting (raised beds, soil preparation, tree planting, etc.). While NEEM works with contractors to accomplish this phase, teachers and students observe the process through tours (at the NEEM greenhouse and on site) and help work out measurements and project materials needs. The second phase of garden construction is planting, which is done by the school’s students, teachers, parents, staff and principals with assistance from NEEM and the immediate community. School garden planting days should be celebratory events for everyone involved. NEEM also collaborates with others involved in urban and rural Agriculture who could become involved in those relationships.
Teacher training is integral to the school garden becoming part of the school’s culture, and attendance at several teacher workshops NEEM is planning is recommended as a supplement to the garden planning process. Supplemental training sessions serve to introduce the curricular connections to the garden and illustrate how to weave garden-based activities into existing curricula. NEEM and botanical educators can help teachers determine how they can modify the activities to fit into or replace their current lesson plan. Ideas for particular disciplines (math, reading comprehension, language arts, art, science, and others) are presented.