Growing Gardens for Body and Mind
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“Kids really love the garden clubs,” says Lippoldt. Their success with the garden clubs has led Growing Gardens to develop other school-based programs such as summer garden camps and school gardens. More recently, they have decided to focus their summer efforts on a series of parent-child workshops — on planting seeds, planning a dinner garden, harvesting and eating vegetables, and worms.
Because many children in Youth Grow want to have a garden at home, Growing Gardens decided to synergize the connection between youth in after-school garden clubs and their parents. In 2009 Growing Gardens reserved 10 spaces in its home gardening program for parents at the schools where it was conducting after-school programs, and all 10 slots were filled. Not all parents who signed up had children in the after-school clubs, but some did. This is a creative way to connect the dots between learning in schools and learning at home, as well as between gardening for fun and gardening for fresh food. By connecting these dots Growing Gardens is weaving a complex community web to support healthy food and eating.
Training School Garden Coordinators
By early 2010 the word was out about Growing Gardens’ success in working with schools, and the demand for its services from parents and teachers at other Portland schools had exploded. “We’ve had about 40 schools in the last year and a half come to us for help,” says Lippoldt.
Unfazed, Growing Gardens turned its attention to figuring out how to meet this overwhelming demand in a way that would foster sustainable change throughout the school system. Necessity bred the invention of a unique five-day, 35-hour certificate training program for school garden coordination. People who want to become a school garden coordinator learn the ins and outs and best practices for creating quality sustainable garden-based education programs.
Lippoldt says the certificate training attracts individuals who have a relationship with the school — parents, individuals who want to work with school gardens, and teachers. So far the training has attracted folks from Portland, but it’s easy to see how the certificate training may soon attract individuals from other cities and states who wish to bring the wisdom back to their own school systems.
Though the certificate training is still in its early years, Growing Gardens has a clear vision of what it will accomplish. Lippoldt hopes that graduates of the training will help schools grow and sustain their own garden-based education programs. And that, she hopes, will lead the schools to pool resources to hire part-time coordinators, who can network and support the garden-based programs throughout the entire school system.
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