Build Your Garden's Village  And Say Thanks!

They say it takes a village to raise a child. But in our experience, it can take a village to raise a bed of lettuce, too!
Whether big or small, new or well-established, educational youth garden projects don’t just happen. They are labors of love made possible by teams of committed people – from teachers, students, and parents to nurses and Master Gardener Volunteers to administrators and garden committees.
If you're just getting started or looking to build your garden's village, a garden committee is a great way to bring together enthusiastic supporters who want to help your garden blossom. When forming your garden committee, think about a diversity of interests and perspectives. Gardens flourish when important stakeholders like teachers, parents, nurses, and students all have their voices heard. Here is a resource on forming an effective garden committee and this resource outline's the committee's role.
Just as important as building your garden’s village is letting your supporters know that you couldn’t do it without them! There are lots of ways to say that you're thinking of them. You can give jars of freshly harvested honey to funders or thank volunteers with a handful of cherry tomatoes. Students can create cards or works of art for Master Gardener Volunteers and garden committee members. Parents, staff, and community members may get a letter with updates showing how their time and financial contributions have helped (see this month’s Success Story below!).

In this month’s issue, you’ll find resources on cultivating the important relationships that keep your garden going.
And while we’re on the subject, we at the Wisconsin School Garden Network want to thank all of you for being our village. We are here because of you and for you. The Network will continue to grow over the coming months to better support the people and institutions committed to growing the garden-based education movement. Stay tuned for exciting updates!

Want to thank someone for supporting your garden? Post on our Facebook page or Tweet a message of thanks using the hashtag #MyGardenVillage!
-Renata, WSGN Communications Manager


Role of the Garden Committee

The garden committee is a group of dedicated participants from the school community whose role is to build and maintain a garden program that will last for years. This resource will help you develop a work plan and outline expectations for the committee.

Connecting With Volunteers

Connecting with volunteers throughout the community creates a web of support for your garden that will last for years to come. Check out this WSGN newsletter from December 2014 for ideas and resources to help you connect with volunteers just waiting to help your garden grow!
Say Thanks With Garden Art

Pinterest has an endless bounty of ideas if you're looking for creative ways to give a garden-themed thank you to your supporters, volunteers, and donors. We've compiled some of our favorite ways that the garden can inspire works of art, from mosaics to simple frames to peace poles.

Supporting Youth Gardens with Master Gardener Volunteers

The mission of Master Gardener Volunteer programs is to train MGVs to become community volunteers who help people with horticulture-related work for their communities. This publication provides tips for creating mutually beneficial relationships between MGVs and school gardens, so that both come away asking for more!
Funding your School Garden Program

A mix of grants, donations, and sales of value-added products may be the perfect equation for a long-lasting school garden program. This brief will offer suggestions to fund a school garden program now, and for years to come!
Sustaining School Gardens

Gardens that are public and well-connected are likely to live long and prosper. There are so many great resources on how to involve students, staff, and community members that we couldn't fit them all in the newsletter. Head over to our website for additional resources, ideas, and guidance!

Events, Grants, & Announcements(Visit our Events page for more!)

Teaching in Nature's Classroom is now available in paperback!
Veteran farm and garden educator Nathan Larson is author of Teaching in Nature’s Classroom: Core Principles of Garden-Based Education, which has reached thousands of educators worldwide since its release in March. In this book, Nathan shares a philosophy of teaching in the garden through fifteen guiding principles, engaging stories from the field, and connections to research literature.

Wisconsin School Garden Network Seeks Regional Coordinators!
Community GroundWorks is looking for five partnering organizations to support regional coordinators for the Network! Regional coordinators will be responsible for supporting the development of the Wisconsin School Garden Network at about 5% of their work time by conducting trainings, providing technical assistance, and supporting the communication goals of the Network. 
Partnering organizations will receive a $3,500 annual stipend and will provide support for their staff person to serve as regional coordinator by partnering with Community GroundWorks through a one-year renewable contract reviewed annually through December 31, 2020.
More information about this request for partnership is available 
Organizations interested in growing the Wisconsin School Garden Network by supporting a regional coordinator can apply online:  The application period will close atmidnight on December 1, 2016. Questions can be addressed to Nathan Larson at or 608-240-0409.
Roots & Shoots Mini-Grants
November 11, 2016

Roots & Shoots Mini-Grants award $200-$400 for projects serving people, animals, and/or the environment. Students can help get the process started by mapping out their service campaign together.

Scholarships for Growing Power's Urban and Small Farms 2016 Conference 

Join Growing Power's Lead Farmer and Master Composter Will Allen and other experts in community based approaches to growing fertility on November 17, 2016. This is a unique 'master compost' level training and skills building experience. Then stay for the Urban and Small Farms Conference November 18-20, 2016

Scholarships will be awarded on a rolling basis. Learn more and apply for a scholarship to attend the conference here.

Schoolyard Garden Grants 

The grant provides up to $1,000 for plants, gardening equipment, curriculum, staff development and anything else that fosters connections between K-12 students and nature. Schools may design their own garden, enhance an existing garden, or better use an existing garden.

Applications are due on Tuesday, December 16, 2016.

Learn more and apply for Schoolyard Garden Grant here.

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

Garden Joke of the Month

What's a zucchini's favorite sport?

Click here for answer

WSGN on the radio!

Can school gardens help kids live a healthier life? WSGN Director Nathan Larson says that garden-based education can be a valuable learning tool for teaching lessons that last a lifetime! Listen to Nathan and collaborator Dr. Sam Dennis discuss the benefits of school and community youth garden programs and outdoor education on Wisconsin Public Radio's The Larry Meiller Show!

Success Story: Lapham Elementary School

Lapham Elementary School: Growing a Garden by Cultivating Relationships

“Sometimes, there’s just a lot of luck,” explains Stephanie Steigerwaldt about the success of the school garden at Lapham Elementary School in Madison. But luck is only part of what makes the garden – and the kids who learn in it – blossom. Lapham’s garden is sustained by strong relationships with committed people in and beyond the school’s community, people like Steigerwaldt, who heads the school’s “Green Team” of volunteers.
From the beginning, the garden has been a collaborative effort. It started in 1998 as a long rectangle of beds without much space to explore or gather. Thanks to support from teachers, parents, the community, and the school’s principal, the project was soon awarded grants. With help from the GROW grant, which funded fruit trees and rain barrels, and later the Art in the Garden grant, which funded permanent interactive installations, the garden has flourished. While the grants made these projects financially feasible, they also created a need for many hours of volunteer work.
Keeping volunteers organized and engaged can be a challenge. People come to gardening with a variety of time available and skill and interest levels. Part of Lapham’s success may come from its variety of volunteer opportunities. Parents can attend community work days, swing by the garden for an hour or two on the weekend, or even “adopt” the garden for a week in the summer. The entire community relies on efforts large and small. “There’s no way six people could maintain the 8008 square-foot garden otherwise!” says Steigerwaldt.
In 2012, spearheaded by a group of parents dedicated to enhancing the school's capactiy for garden-based education, Lapham launched their gardener-in-residence program. The program is funded by Lapham's parent-teacher group and managed by Community GroundWorks. The gardener-in-residence serves as a part-time coordinator and gardener. Among the position’s many roles are organizing classroom visits and clearly identifying what needs to be done in the garden. This year’s gardener-in-residence is Kim Mayer. She writes a list on the garden’s white board so that volunteering parents can come to the garden at their leisure without needing a supervisor to be present.
This method comes in handy not only for enterprising parents, but for the garden’s Master Gardener Volunteer. Master Gardeners were essential to developing the outdoor kitchen area and committing to difficult and laborious tasks. But Master Gardener Karen Klekamp has also incorporated her interest in issues of food sovereignty into her work with Lapham. In past years she has used information on the white board to determine what needed to be harvested from the garden. Each Tuesday, she harvested and delivered the garden’s produce to the local WilMar food pantry.
The toil and teamwork involved in sustaining the garden has resulted in its own community with strong, lasting relationships. It’s those relationships – as well as a strong commitment to educating kids in sustainable living and conservation techniques – that keeps parents like Steigerwaldt so involved even though she no longer has a child in the school. “I love these guys! We’ve become good friends and I wasn’t expecting that. I can’t believe how rich of an experience it’s been.”
Of course, not everyone has the time and flexibility to volunteer in the garden. All members of the community are able to stay involved with the project through photographs and stories on the garden’s Facebook page. School-wide activities such as a fall potluck and ice cream social make the garden a communal space that has become part of the school’s culture. There is also a year-end letter and report that keeps parents, teachers, and community members up to date and acknowledges that the garden is possible thanks to the entire community.
In the end, the relationships cultivated through the garden grow a robust and well-integrated learning environment for the kids. Students are responsible for planting half to three-quarters of the garden. For children who were once hesitant to touch a plant or dig in the dirt, gardening becomes a normal part of their year, along with the ice cream socials and fall potlucks among the garden’s fruit trees, garden beds, and musical structures. “It’s a unique place,” Steigerwaldt says of Lapham Elementary School, “where people with different interests and people of different ages within the community have come together over issues of food… Coming together around shared concerns and issues builds these relationships.”

You can learn more about garden-based learning at Lapham Elementary School here!

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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