The Big News

The Wisconsin School Garden Initiative (WSGI) has officially blossomed into the Wisconsin School Garden Network (WSGN)!
How do you teach kids about nutrition, help them choose more fruits and veggies, incorporate movement into academic lessons, build self-efficacy, and create a sense of place and pride at school? In Wisconsin, educators are turning again and again to youth gardens that are blossoming at ever more schools, early care & education sites, and after-school programs throughout the state. Three years ago, the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative was created to support the development of school and community youth gardens in our state by offering free professional development opportunities for educators, technical assistance, useful resources, and to begin developing a support structure and network for new and existing youth gardens.

Accomplishments of the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative
Since 2013, WSGI has:
We are immensely proud of the work we have done, and we are even more proud of the thousands of Wisconsin educators who have helped new gardens come to life, and established gardens become an indispensable part of school culture, policy, and students' every day experiences. With green thumbs or without, Wisconsin educators have taken to the soil to help students learn through the measuring of garden beds, the planting of seeds, the eating of cherry tomatoes, and so much more. To date, we have collected over thirty incredible school garden stories, and we are so excited to see this movement continue to grow. 

Introducing WSGN: the Wisconsin School Garden Network
We are thrilled to announce the establishment of the Wisconsin School Garden Network. Through WSGN we will build off of the success of the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative to continue supporting the growing school garden movement in our state.

Vision of the Wisconsin School Garden Network
WSGN will:
  • Continue to improve children's health and wellbeing by supporting and promoting best practices in garden-based education in Wisconsin and beyond.
  • Continue to connect educators and other school garden enthusiasts to free resources, funding opportunities, and inspirational stories through a robust communications network.
  • Continue to offer free training and technical support for new and existing youth gardens in Wisconsin.
  • Support garden-based education in urban and rural communities around the state by establishing five nodes of school garden leadership throughout the state.
  • Engage local and state-level decision makers to lay the groundwork for policy changes that support school gardens and garden-based education. 
  • Bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to establish goals and priorities for the school garden movement in Wisconsin.
Thank-you to our funder and partners
Funding for both the Wisconsin School Garden Initiative and the Wisconsin School Garden Network was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program. We can't begin to express our gratitude for making these projects possible!
The Wisconsin School Garden Network is supported by the Cultivate Health Initiative (CHI), which is a joint project of Community GroundWorks and the Environmental Design Lab, in collaboration with healthTIDE and the Obesity Prevention Initiative. CHI is supported by many local, state and national partners including schools and school districts, regional health departments and health coalitions, and state agencies and organizations such as the Wisconsin Department Health Services, the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and UW-Extension
Help grow the Network!
We are so excited for what the next five years have in store for garden-based education in Wisconsin! Help us grow the Network - share our newsletters and resources, or drop us a line with your school garden questions or ideas!


This month, to celebrate the many accomplishments of WSGI and the launch of WSGN, we have put together a "Resource Round-up" that includes some of our favorites from the past three years. Find more school garden resources at We are always adding to our collection! 
Teaching in Nature's Classroom We are so excited to announce the release of this new book! In Teaching in Nature's Classroom, Nathan Larson shares fifteen principles of teaching in the garden. Free paperback and ebook editions are available. The book includes vivid paintings by Becky Redelings, connections to evidence-based practices in garden education, and personal insights from the author about teaching kids in the garden!  
Chop, Chop! Videos “Chop, chop!” That's the sound of School Child Nutrition Directors who have a new way to help Wisconsin students eat more locally grown vegetables and grains. This six-part series of free videos teach food service staff how to work with specialty crops is now available online. Episodes include Dark Leafy Greens, Winter Squash, Root Vegetables, "Wisconsin Slaw," and more! 
School Garden Briefs
Our collection has grown! The WSGN website is now home to over twenty school garden briefs! Topics include building outdoor classrooms, pollinator gardens, kid-friendly garden tools, incorporating curriculum standards in garden-based learning, funding your garden program, creating accessible gardens, composting at school, planting fruit trees, gardens for early care and education programs, and more! Download, read, print, and share!
Growing Healthy Children is a toolkit for garden-based nutrition education! This at-a-glance guide includes activity cards for your classroom, cafeteria, or in the garden itself. Activities are supported by research from the field and success stories from Wisconsin schools. Co-written by WSGI, the Oneida County Health Department, Northwoods LEAN, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. 
WI School Garden Map From Bayfield and Barron to Mount Horeb and Monona, Wisconsin kids are planting, tending, and harvesting youth gardens. Add your school garden or pass along to a sister site! Find gardens by county or school type - including districts and early education centers - and look up contact information for garden coordinators. 
Newsletters by Theme
Want to learn more about Art in the Garden? Composting with Kids? Literacy in the Garden? Over the past three years, WSGI has developed each monthly newsletter with a guiding theme in mind. Browsing past newsletters can be a great way to find resources, ideas, and garden success stories related to a specific topic. Other themes have included Academics in the Garden, Working with Volunteers, Seed Starting, Garden Fundraising, Summer Maintenance, Harvest Festivals, and more. 
Getting Started with School Gardens

Just starting a school garden? We're here to help. Check out these free resources, developed right in Wisconsin. Or, send us an email with your questions! 

Got Dirt? Garden Toolkit: Simple, step-by-step guide for starting a school garden
Got Veggies? Nutrition Education Curriculum: Aligned with state standards
Cultivating Childhood Wellness through Gardening Free online training with chapters on planning, planting, growing, and harvesting a garden with kids. Approved for continuing education hours for child care providers (1.5 hours of Registry credit).

Events ... visit our Events page for more

School Garden Support Organizations, Unite! A Pre-Conference Gathering
June 2, 8:30am-12:00pm - Madison, WI

Join school garden support organizations from across the nation to discuss strategies for building and maintaining multiple gardens, creating sustainable funding streams, program assessment and evaluation, school integration, and training school garden educators. This event takes place just before the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference in Madison. Please register separately.  Breakfast and snacks will be provided.

Register here


Registration is Open for the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference!
June 2-4, 2016 - Madison, WI

The 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is coming to Wisconsin in June! This event is the only national gathering of stakeholders from across the farm to cafeteria movement. Early bird registration is open now, including pre-conference short courses and field trips. Join more than 1,500 attendees in this great national event. The 2014 conference sold out before the registration deadline, so don't wait! 

Register here
McKay Apple Crunch Photo Contest - Vote during Earth Week!
McKay Nursery Company in Waterloo, WI, is hosting a contest to determine the best photos from Wisconsin’s 2015 Great Apple Crunch! Photos from the contest finalists will be posted on the McKay Nursery Facebook Page during Earth Week, April 18-21st. The three photos with the most “likes” during that period will win edible plant packages from McKay, so be sure to vote for your favorite with the “like” button!
Congratulations to all the photo contest finalists around the state: Augusta School District, Community Groundworks, Janesville School District, North Crawford School District, St. Joseph Parish School, Southern Door School District, YMCA of Portage County, School for Agricultural & Environmental Studies (SAGES), and Sparta Area School District.

Vote here starting April 18!
Growing Minds Course for Educators July 25-29, 2016 - Madison, WI

This 5-day, 20-hour course is designed for K-12 teachers and community educators who are interested in building skills in youth garden education, development, and management. This course will emphasize an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to garden-based learning. Topics include garden design, funding, outdoor kitchens and garden-based nutrition, program evaluation, earth art, and more. Course instruction takes place outdoors in the award-winning Troy Kids' Garden. Graduate credit is available.


Learn more and register


Tasty Tidbits ... of wisdom, fun, and information

Garden Joke of the Month

What did one lettuce say to the other lettuces when they saw a rabbit coming?

Click here for answer

Wisconsin Students Help Plant White House Kitchen Garden

Students from Washburn, Wisconsin made a trip to the White House on April 5th to assist First Lady Michelle Obama in the 8th annual planting of the White House Kitchen Garden. 

Read more


Success Story: Brodhead FFA

Diggin’ in the Dirt: Brodhead school garden program gets all ages involved in agriculture education

Early each summer morning, Becky Wellnitz walks into her classroom in Brodhead, Wisconsin and puts some seeds into a jar. When her Diggin’ in the Dirt students arrive, the first thing they do is peek in the jar and guess the number of seeds. “Peas, sunflower seeds, marigold seeds, sprouting potatoes…the potatoes were easy,” she laughs.

But you won’t see Wellnitz’s summer school students in the classroom for long. After investigating the eyes on the seed potatoes in the guessing jar, you will find them out in the garden, planting, watering, or harvesting the spuds they grow in their special straw bale gardens (a technique they have found very successful for this crop and its horticultural cousin, the tomato). Later, you will find them cutting potatoes to make their own French fries for a mid-morning snack.

“We try to take all the lessons full circle,” Wellnitz says. The kids get so excited when they are a part of the whole process.”  After students learn how peppers, tomatoes, and onions grow, they chop veggies for their own garden salsa, while a lesson on the differences between field corn, sweet corn, and popcorn is followed – of course! – by popping their own corn. One year, in an eye-opening moment, Wellnitz asked her freshman-level agriculture class to trace all the ingredients in several common foods, such as pretzels. “No kid in our class could tell me where flour came from to make pretzels,” Wellnitz said. Not anymore. Thanks to an FFA senior project, the Brodhead school garden is now home to a pizza garden, where triangle-shaped garden beds are planted with tomatoes, onions, and wheat.

Brodhead is a small community of 3,000 residents and plenty of dairy farms, but many students are two or even three generations removed from farming. When Wellnitz started teaching agriculture and advising the school’s FFA three years ago, she wanted to make sure that agriculture education was a part of every student’s experience. “Not everybody is going to be a farmer,” Wellnitz–who runs her own dairy farm when she is not teaching–said, “but everybody is going to be involved in food through eating.”

While Wellnitz’s position is only part-time, she makes a big impact on the school district. When she started her Diggin’ in the Dirt summer school class three years ago, she was amazed to see that each of the four sessions were completely full, involving over 100 incoming first through sixth graders in a 21-day ag education experience. Some students even chose to take the class again the following summer. “The kids really enjoy what they are doing, and working out in the garden helps them focus,” Wellnitz said. “They can talk and ask questions, but their hands are busy. Honestly, this wouldn’t be successful if the kids were not a part of it.”

Students also get the chance to lead other students out in the garden, with high school FFA members helping elementary students do tasks like weeding and planting. In keeping with the spirit of learning gardens, sometimes student co-leadership turns into a teachable moment for everyone. “One day,” Wellnitz remembers, “I sent the high schoolers to go weed the pizza garden with the younger kids. But they didn’t know how to tell the difference between the onions and the weeds. We all replanted the onions together. They knew the difference after that!”

Overall, Wellnitz says the program “is bringing awareness to students of where their food does come from. I really think having them try a pepper for the first time, or even appreciate how much time and effort goes in to having food like lettuce.”

The Brodhead garden was one of seven schools in Wisconsin to receive the State Superintendent’s Standing Up for Rural Education Award in 2014.  The Brodhead school garden has also received grants from the Wisconsin Farm Bureau and the local FFA Alumni. “Even though our summer school program doesn’t have a budget,” Wellnitz said, “there is a ton of a grant money available if you are willing to fill out the paperwork.”

Wellnitz has developed and collected a wealth of materials and resources from her summer school garden classes, and she is happy to share. You can reach her at

Read other Wisconsin school garden success stories

Share your garden story #wischoolgardens

Every garden is ripe with stories.  Maybe it is one about the day the first shovel-full of soil was turned over and the garden was underway.  Or about that time a brave rabbit dared to sample lettuce amidst a class of kindergartners partaking in a garden lesson. Each story has the potential to connect others with your garden program. Send us your story idea, or read our garden storytelling brief for tips on collecting and sharing thestories that make your garden program so special.  

Want to see the Wisconsin School Garden Newsletter each month?   Subscribing is a great first step to getting involved. Help grow the Network by passing this newsletter along to a friend! If you're already subscribed, don't worry - you can't double-book yourself on the Network list.
Like us on Facebook!
Like us on Facebook!
Check out our Pinterest boards!
Check out our Pinterest boards!
Follow us on our website!
Follow us on our website!
Copyright © 2016 Community GroundWorks, All rights reserved.

unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp
Forward to Friend