Family Time in the Garden

When I was six years old, teachers at my small, urban school installed two small raised garden beds for the first and second grade classes. We decided what vegetables we wanted and we planted seeds together. We watched hopefully as seedlings sprouted and grew.
I remember vividly pulling my very first carrot from the ground. It was scraggly and crooked, no thicker than a pencil. But to me, it was the most perfect carrot ever grown. That afternoon, our parents came to the garden to see the fruits of our labor. I kept a close eye on my carrot to make sure I could show my parents the exact one that I'd picked. Handing that carrot to my mother was a very proud moment.
To accompany dinner, my parents prepared a salad – including, of course, my special carrot. In retrospect, there must have been other carrots cut up in that salad because mine could have been eaten in a single bite. But I announced every carrot I bit into that evening as the best, sweetest, crunchiest carrot I'd ever tasted, convinced that it was the one I'd harvested.

Growing and harvesting my own carrot was special. But what made it so memorable for me was being able to share the experience with my family. The garden bridged my worlds, bringing together garden lessons and my family's own food culture. 
As you'll see in this week's Success Story below, school and youth garden programs can provide an important space for parents and their kids to think about food and nature together. Families can experience tasting a new vegetable or simply benefit from shared experiences. This month's newsletter highlights resources and stories about engaging families in the school garden community through activities in the garden and in the home.

If you have stories and ideas to share about family time in the garden – as a parent, an educator, or a kid! – we want to hear about it! Share your experiences on our Facebook page or Twitter using the hashtag #FamilyGardening.

-Renata, WSGN Communications Manager


Nature Journaling

Sit down and look around. Make a list or draw a picture of what you see. Write down what you are feeling and your thoughts. Write a poem. Collect fallen leaves to press in your notebook. There is no right way to make a nature journal, so it's a great activity for people of any age. Musings can be shared in the classroom or at home!

Our Favorite Garden Lessons & Activities

Fun for kids of all ages -- and their parents! Let this Wisconsin School Garden Network brief be your reference for garden activities and lessons that you will use again and again. From garden necklaces to seed art, it’s all right here!

The Debate Plate Series

This Edible Schoolyard series focuses on factors and considerations that influence personal food choices. Originally created for 8th graders, these recipes and discussions can be adapted for different ages and are great for a classroom or dinner table!

Garden Recipes

Something about the magical harvest-to-table process seems to make kids of any age go bonkers for vegetables they might otherwise turn away from. Since kids often split meal time between school and home, cooking is an exciting opportunity to bring school lessons into the home. This past newsletter is full of garden-to-table recipes and resources.
15 Fun Family Gardening Projects

From math in the garden to simple bird feeders to digging in the dirt, these activities will be fun for parents and kids alike! Enjoy projects in your home garden or adapt them for group settings.
Back Pocket Garden Activities

You can adapt these great back pocket activities to have an exciting family scavenger hunt or do a kids versus grownups veggie taste test. And these activities can be just as easily taped to your fridge to use them at home on a slow summer day. 
(You can find more back pocket garden ideas in this past newsletter!)

News & Announcements

Safety in the Little Gardeners' Garden
This publication from UW Extension's Plants+People series -- co-written by the Network's Outreach Manager Beth Hanna! -- focuses on how to build and use a garden space that meets and exceeds safety requirements and licensing rules for child care programs. From a garden's inception to freshly picked food landing on a cafeteria table, learn how to think about and manage key safety issues.

Upcoming Events (Visit our events page for more! Have an event to share? Email us!)

Jefferson County School Garden Summit
March 9, 2017, 4-7 p.m.
University Center at UW-Whitewater

The Jefferson County School Garden Summit is an opportunity to connect with people, resources, and the school garden initiative as a whole. Whether you are new to the concept, an ongoing supporter, or the go-to expert at your school, there will be something for you to learn and enjoy. Free to attend, but donations will be accepted to support local school garden projects.

Learn more and register here.

Grant Opportunities (Visit our grants page for more!)

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant
February 9, 2017

The Lowe's Toolbox for Education program provides grant awards of up to $5,000 to support school improvement projects at K-12 public schools in the U.S. Projects that encourage parent involvement and build stronger community spirit are encouraged. Grant requests must be between $2,000 and $5,000 per school.

Learn more here.

Child and Adult Care Food Program Garden Subgrant
February 24, 2017

The purpose of the grant is for child care sites to implement garden-based nutrition education into their programs. Subgrant awards will be available for approximately 20 child care sites. Applicants can apply for up to $2,000 to purchase gardening supplies and nutrition education materials. Funding is only available for group child care centers. Family/home child care programs are not eligible to apply.

Learn more and apply here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

2017 Carton 2 Garden Contest
April 12, 2017

Your school can get started by collecting at least 100 empty cartons from your home, community, or cafeteria. After gathering cartons, it’s time to design and construct purposeful garden items and structures using them. Open to public and private schools, contest winners will be selected based on their implementation of an innovative garden creation featuring creative and sustainable uses for repurposed milk and juice cartons.

Learn more and get ideas from past projects here.

Community Seed Donations
Ongoing Applications

Each year, Seed Savers Exchange donates the previous year's unsold seeds to charitable organizations. To qualify for a seed donation, an organization must be a nonprofit or have a nonprofit umbrella sponsorship and have a shipping address within the United States. Volunteers pre-pack donation boxes with 100 seed packets, each a different variety. Recipients do not choose specific varieties, but will receive a wide selection of seed varieties.

Learn more and apply here.

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

Carton 2 Garden Webinar

Whether or not you're applying for the Carton 2 Garden contest (see above!) this webinar has great ideas for up-cycling cartons to create imaginative, functional, and funky containers to grow plants for your classroom or garden.

Garden Joke of the Month

What did the DJ say at the garden party?

Click here for answer

Success Story: Growing Oshkosh

Families flourish with the help of garden-based education

Growing Oshkosh, a non-profit urban farm that supports school garden programming in Oshkosh, firmly believes that food brings people together. The organization's primary work includes establishing and maintaining gardens and programming at local schools, as well as providing garden-based education at their own farm. But Growing Oshkosh's work extends beyond the bounds of the school day. With family-oriented workshops throughout the winter and weekly family nights during the growing season, Fox Valley families are learning about gardening, nature, and, of course, tasty vegetables – together.
One of the ways Growing Oshkosh engages families – and the greater Oshkosh community – is by making the produce from the school gardens the organization supports available to anyone. "Anyone is welcome to harvest from the gardens, so they provide fresh, healthy food for the community," explains Jennifer Sattler, Youth Program Manager for Growing Oshkosh. Through these gardens, the organization can provide local families with the perfect balance of guidance and autonomy. Growing Oshkosh sends weekly email updates during the growing season letting families know what vegetables are ready to harvest at their various gardens across the city. The emails also indicate what the vegetables look like and how to harvest them so experts and novices alike can enjoy the school gardens' fresh produce. This makes for a more inclusive garden experience and helps to increase confidence in kids and adults less familiar with what the gardens have to offer while providing access to fresh food.
"A lot of parents are excited to have a space where they can interact with their kids in a garden that they're not responsible for," Sattler observes. "It still has all the benefits of being able to eat food fresh from the garden that they may not have been able to try before."
In their quest to broaden the reach of garden-based education and include Oshkosh residents of all ages, Growing Oshkosh has learned that effective garden-based education can take many forms. Some people may enjoy an art project, game, or lesson more than digging in the dirt. For families seeking more structured programming, they offer monthly workshops in the winter and weekly Tuesday night programs in the summer. The programs are timed to work around many families' work and dinner schedules.
These events go far beyond weeding and harvesting. Last summer, an aphid outbreak in a hoop house was the perfect opportunity for a lesson in beneficial insects. Apprehensive parents watched on as their kids helped to shake 9000 ladybugs loose in the hoop house. Parents and their children were able to grow comfortable touching insects – and even grew to think of them as friends. The experience encouraged return trips to the garden to see if the ladybugs stuck around. And this month, 5-6 families will learn about pollinator recruitment while building their own mason bee hotels.
Still, the most memorable moments can come when the programming is over, the vegetables are harvested, and the parents and kids let their imaginations run wild among the flowers, vines, and vegetables. Weekly visitors watch in awe as mammoth sunflowers grow toward the sky. Families run under them, pretending they are giant showerheads. And when the time comes to harvest the flowers, they learn together that the seemingly benign giants have spiky hollow stems.
Wandering through the garden and harvesting fresh vegetables – or learning together about beneficial insects – can be a great opportunity for family bonding after a long day of school and work. But family time in the garden can have broader implications, as well. "The biggest take away from family events," says Sattler, "is that it encourages families to think about food together. Parents see their kids wanting to try new vegetables. Parents learn about new foods side-by-side with their kids. Families develop a sense that food is communal. By choosing, prepping, and cooking vegetables together…meals become less top-down where parents make dinner and kids eat what they're given."
You can learn more about Growing Oshkosh here. For families in the Oshkosh area, Growing Oshkosh is partnering with local community entities to spread the word about garden-based education programs. The next (kid-friendly!) event on February 16 is from 6-7 p.m. at the Peace Lutheran Church.

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.  

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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