Dear Network,

On a recent trip to Madison Children's Museum with my toddler, a staff member told me about the many considerations that go into designing the museum's expanding outdoor spaces. The goal, she explained, is that everyone who visits the museum can interact with exhibits and activities. They're built for people of all sizes and ages. The staff has training so that they can work with neuro-diverse populations of visitors. Paths are wide enough for wheelchairs, garden beds are accessible from a seated position, and stimuli can be enjoyed from all different heights and in many different ways.

After my visit I caught up with the museum's Environmental Education Manager, Cheryl DeWelt (a name that may sound familiar to those of you who attended Wisconsin School Garden Network open-calls) to hear more about what features she thinks about when designing a garden for a broad population. 

"A big one is raised bed planters," said Cheryl. "And also the pathways. The size of pathways and the materials. Pathways should always be 36-48 inches wide. There are a few ways you can make them." Two of pathway materials that Cheryl suggested are decomposed red granite and EWF, or engineered wood fiber, both of which are ADA-compliant and are traversable for wheelchairs while also being safe for kids running and jumping around. 

But garden accessibility is about so much more than path width and planter height. One of the most important ways to make a garden space accessible to all children, explains Cheryl, is having trained educators who can provide hands-on mentorship. "It really does make a big difference," Cheryl says.

In this month's newsletter, you'll find resources that address garden accessibility and design. There are so many good ones out there so we included more resources than usual! Be sure to check out the announcements section for exciting news coming in January as well as the grants section for some upcoming funding opportunities.

Wishing all of you a warm and healthy end to 2021. We're looking forward to great gardens in 2022! 

-Renata, Wisconsin School Garden Network Communications Director

P.S. - We want to hear from you. Tell Wisconsin's school garden community about your garden on our Facebook page or Twitter using the hashtag #wischoolgardens or send us an email.


Create a Garden Accessible for Those with Physical Limitations

By designing your garden with accessibility in mind, you can create a garden that can be enjoyed by everyone. Here are some ways to plan a garden that is welcoming to all. View resource »

The Universal Garden

This story from the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network describes of research and construction of an accessible garden through the story of one garden's creation. View resource »

A Guide for Making Community Gardens Accessible for all Members

Through promoting the principles of Universal Design this guide is intended to offer gardeners assistance on how to make their gardens more accessible for people of all ages and abilities. View resource »

Creating a Special Needs Garden for Children

Cited benefits of gardening include improved motor skills, enhanced creativity, increased social skills, and improved self-confidence. Gardening also reduces stress and helps children cope with anxiety and frustration. These are things that can benefit all children, regardless of age, health, or ability. View resource »

Tips for Creating an Accessible School Garden

In this brief you'll find tips for garden design, tools, and practices to help make your garden a place for everyone to participate in activities, lessons, and more. View resource »

Search our Library!

The Wisconsin School Garden Network searchable resource Library is a great place to get started. Check out our garden accessibility resourcesView resource »

Tips for Creating an Accessible School Garden

Therapeutic engagement with gardening and garden-based activities is one type of intervention currently being explored for children and youth with ASD. This resource has more information about the benefits of gardening and tips to help you think about garden design and features. View resource »

Design a Healing Garden

Intentionally designing your garden space with this purpose in mind can provide even more benefits. In this activity, young gardeners will brainstorm ways to create their own healing gardenView resource »

News & Announcements

A new look coming in 2022!

We are excited to announce that this newsletter will be expanding next month. You'll still be able to get all of your school garden info right here! And you'll also find more information about other aspects of Farm to School in Wisconsin like nutrition education and local food procurement. If you're still mostly interested in gardens that's no problem at all! These handy icons can be found after ever resource so you know whether it is right for you and you program. Keep your eyes open in January for the Growing Together newsletter!

Put your garden on the map!

The Wisconsin School Garden Map is an interactive map of youth garden sites across the state. In fact, with more than 850 sites listed, Wisconsin has more documented youth garden education sites than any state in the country! Besides serving as a beautiful display of Wisconsin's school garden community, the map includes location and contact information for gardens so that you can find gardens in your area and connect with local educators.

We know there are so many more gardens out there. In fact, we'd love to have 1,000 documented gardens by the time Wisconsin School Garden Day comes around at the end of May. Help grow the Wisconsin School Garden Network Map!

View map or add your program to the map!

Upcoming Workshops & Events

Join the Wisconsin Farm to School Leadership Team!
December 14, 10:00 a.m. CST

School gardens are an essential component of Farm to School. The Wisconsin Farm to School Network Leadership Team is composed of community, county, and state leaders from across Wisconsin who are actively engaged in growing farm to school and related efforts. The next meeting is Tuesday, December 14 at 10 a.m. and we will be sharing available resources for people who want to engage more with F2S and Farm to ECE. 

Join the team.

Community of Practice for Schools & Districts Moving Learning Outside
December 14, 1:00 p.m. CST

The National COVID-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative’s Community of Practice meetings take place every other Tuesday and are an opportunity for people to share information with one another about outdoor learning. The next meeting on December 14 will feature Victoria Rydberg from Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction. 

Learn more and register here.

Wiscosnin Chili Lunch
February 24

Celebrate Wisconsin-grown foods and farm to institution efforts by joining the 2022 Wisconsin Chili Lunch. Join K-12 schools, early care and education programs, hospitals, colleges and more by cooking and serving a chili recipe made with local ingredients on National Chili Day—Thursday, February 24th, 2022! Participation is simple: prepare and serve your Wisconsin Chili Lunch using as many locally grown ingredients as possible, and customize it to meet your needs! 

Learn more and register here.

Growing School Gardens Summit
April 22-25, 2022 in Denver, CO

Mark your calendars! 
The Growing School Gardens Summit is a gathering designed to support our shared work to strengthen the school garden movement at local and national levels so that all children and youth can have vibrant, resilient school garden programs. As the first-ever national gathering focused entirely on school gardening, the summit will unite educators and leaders to share innovations and harness our collective power for future change

Learn more and register here.

Grants and Funding Opportunities

Gro More Good Garden Grant
Deadline: December 15, 2021

This partnership between NHSA and the Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation brings garden grants to Head Start programs demonstrating a strong need for teaching their children, families, and communities how to grow their own fresh produce—for life! The Gro More Good Garden Grant will grant awards varying from $2,500—5,000 in an effort to supplement needs of existing garden projects and to help launch new garden projects, or to supplement/launch outdoor green space projects. The Initiative will be awarding a total of $50,000 in grant awards.

Learn more and apply.

Youth Garden Grant
Deadline: December 17, 2021

Any nonprofit organization, public or private school, or youth program in the United States or US Territories planning a new garden program or expanding an established one that serves at least 15 youth between the ages of 3 and 18 is eligible to apply. Previous Youth Garden Grant winners are not eligible.

Learn more and apply here.

Madison Area Master Gardener Association Grant
(Dane County only)

Application period: December 1, 2021 - March 4, 2022

The Madison Area Master Gardener Association (MAMGA) grant applications are open! Grant applications will be accepted between December 1, 2021 and March 4, 2022. These grants help support school garden projects and nonprofit community-based garden projects located within Dane County. The project must be sponsored by a MAMGA Master Gardener and be affiliated with a school or a nonprofit organization.

Learn more and apply here.

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

Garden Joke of the Month: What's small, red, and whispers? Click here for the answer!
We CRUNCHED the Numbers!
Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch is an annual opportunity for schools and programs to connect with local orchards and apple growers. This year, more than 1.2 million apples were crunched in celebration of Farm to School Month. It was a way to engage in Farm to School activities district-wide and kids had the opportunity to be part of something region-wide while learning how apples grow and what it takes to be an apple farmer. Check out the infographic below (adapted from materials from CIAS) to learn more about the 2021 crunch.

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.  

Visit our website!
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).

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