There are more than 2,000 schools in Georgia, and about 25 percent of these have school gardens. These gardens are much more than just beautiful spaces. They are true outdoor classrooms where students learn about history, geography, math and literature.
If your children attend a school with a garden, you may wonder how you can get involved. Here are some tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to help you be an effective garden helper.
Volunteer: Meet the garden manager or head teacher and ask what the garden needs. Just like your home garden, pulling weeds is always a priority. Many corporations encourage their employees to complete group service projects. If you are associated with one of these companies, consider working with the school garden manager to organize a volunteer event. This could be a huge help with big projects like spreading mulch or cleaning out old garden beds.
Donate: Schools always need supplies, and the school garden is no exception. Compost, plants and kid-sized tools are always appreciated. The garden manager can let you know your child’s school garden’s specific needs. Sometimes companies will match employee donations, which will magnify your contribution. Organizing a tool drive or plant donation event could be a great help to a new school garden.
Become a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) partner: If your child’s school is pursuing STEM certification through their school garden, they need community partners. Depending on your profession or skill set, you could be a real help here.
Community partners work with schools to create student projects that are hands-on and related to STEM, like building rain barrels with water filter systems, creating computer programs or apps to manage garden yield data, or assisting high school students in creating farmers markets using school garden produce. Partners can also host field trips or provide opportunities for high school interns.
Connect with your local UGA Extension office: Your Extension agent may be available to host workshops and trainings throughout the year that cover a variety of horticultural topics. Your agent is also a very valuable resource if your garden runs into trouble with plant pests or diseases. A UGA Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent can help with topics like food safety in the garden and food preservation.
As with all volunteer opportunities, you must be sensitive to the established garden program. The school garden manager can let you know what the garden needs and how your skill set can help to meet those needs.
For inspiration, see UGA Extension’s school garden resources webpage at www.extension.uga.edu/programs-services/school-garden-resources. Have a wonderful school year in the garden!
(Becky Griffin is an educational program specialist with the University of Georgia Extension in Cobb County.)
Dougherty County Extension Coordinator James Morgan teaches Radium Springs Elementary school students how to plant fall vegetables. Morgan has been instrumental in the establishment of school gardens at 13 of the 14 elementary schools in Dougherty County.Download Image