Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Sustaining School Gardens – Funding Garden Coordinators

Model Policies and Organizations from Across the Country

Written by Whitney Cohen. Life Lab Education Director

School gardens are fantastic! (To be convinced, view The Garden, A Master Teacher) But that's not what this article's about, so let me start over. School gardens are fantastic, and they require a tremendous amount of work. Which begs the question: Who can do all the work involved in growing a school garden?

There is a groundswell of public support for school gardens, and yet, according to the California School Garden Survey conducted by Life Lab in 2011, the vast majority of the work involved in creating and maintaining school gardens falls on teachers who are already clearly overworked. And while some of the necessary garden tasks fit seamlessly into the school schedule and make for ideal, hands-on learning experiences, some simply do not. And so it is common to see a teacher, at the end of a very long day, installing bird netting over the seedlings, heading out to the hardware store to replace a leaky valve, or sitting down to the computer to write a grant for a tool shed.

The good news is: there is a better way. In fact, there are many better ways! Having worked with thousands of educators across the country, we have seen unequivocal evidence that school gardens thrive when there is funding not just for materials and training, but for a leader.

Many schools fundraise to support paid garden coordinator positions via education foundations, school improvement funds, or grants. At a time when some schools are being forced to cut staffing, libraries, and even school days in the year, however, this is a tall demand: in most cases, too tall. And so today we are highlighting one model for success that we have seen taking root across the country: policies and organizations that fund coordinators to serve gardens in a particular region:

Some cities or regions have passed legislation or created service member programs to fund school garden coordinators. Here are some very exciting examples:

DC City Council unanimously passed this wellness and anti-hunger act, providing nearly $6 million soda tax dollars to D.C. district schools. In addition to improving school meals and physical education, the act allows the District to provide $10,000 stipends to schools for gardens and garden coordinators, and to hire one district-wide School Garden Specialist to support them.

  • Santa Cruz City Schools in Santa Cruz, CA

In 2008, school garden coordinators and advocates presented a proposal to the Santa Cruz City Schools Parcel Tax Oversight Committee for inclusion in a parcel tax renewal. This committee created a list of recommended jobs and programs, including garden coordinator positions. The school board adopted these recommendations and the voters passed the 9-year parcel tax, which now funds garden coordinators in all 4 elementary schools in the SCCS school district for 20 hours/week plus benefits. 

  • Education Outside (formerly the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance) in San Francisco, CA

Education Outside has helped secure nearly $14 million in bond funding for the development of green schoolyards in 84 San Francisco public schools. The organization funds green schoolyard installation; teacher trainings; and a service corps program that places 10 Corps for Outside Education service members in 10 public elementary schools.

FoodCorps is a national network of AmeriCorps service members working on school garden and farm to school programs in limited-resource communities. There are currently 80 FoodCorps service members and 12 fellows across 12 states, and the program is growing. Schools and other site hosts pay a cost share of $5,000 to host full-time service members, many of whom coordinate one or more gardens in their service regions. 

 

There are also various foundations and non-profits that fund school garden coordinators in their areas. Here are a few stellar examples:           

The Orfalea Foundation funds 21 garden coordinators, each of whom oversees 1-3 school gardens. Each coordinator is funded for 10 hours/week per garden.

City Sprouts funds 4 garden coordinators for 30 hours/week from April-November. Each garden coordinator oversees 3 school gardens. City Sprouts also hosts 3 FoodCorps members, each of whom oversee 1-2 school gardens. 

Urban Sprouts funds 3 garden coordinators for 12-32 hours/week year-round. Between them, these coordinators oversee 5 school gardens.

This model differs from those above. REAL School Gardens provides $400 stipends to garden coordinators (often teachers) from 92 schools that demonstrate a broad base of support from staff, parents, principal, community members, and students. Before garden installations, schools are guided to establish a garden committee to spread the load of responsibility and ensure that the garden coordinator is the leader of the team, but not the sole caretaker of the garden. REAL School Gardens staff support the 92 garden teams with coordinator meetings, supplies, and other resources.

 

Of course, some teachers would like to be the Garden Coordinators for their schools, and they are ideal candidates for the job! In order to make this proposition sustainable, some schools have fundraised to pay substitutes, providing release time for the teachers to teach and manage their own school gardens. Here's an example:

 

If you have another model for supporting school gardens to share, please keep the conversation alive! Post a comment about the models you know below.

 

Also see in our Sustaining School Gardens series:

​Coming Soon:

  • Volunteer-led programs.

follow us on Facebook

Have you heard?! Life Lab is one of New Leaf Community Markets' recipients of their EnviroToken program for their Westside Santa Cruz store! So get your shopping on, bring your reusable bags, and donate 10¢ to Life Lab with every bag you use! Thank you, New Leaf!
#thankyou, #grateful, #ReduceReuseRecycle, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

We are so grateful to be starting 2018 with such strong support! Because of so many generous gifts from our supporters like you, we surpassed our 2017 fundraising goal of $124,000, with all campaign donations totaling $125,835.

These funds will help make Life Lab field trip and summer camp programs possible for children from families and schools that could otherwise not afford them. We believe that ALL children deserve the chance to love learning, healthy food, and nature. Thanks to your support, this year we will serve even more children in Santa Cruz County and across the nation.

THANK YOU!

#beapartofit, #startingstrong, #changinglives, #isupportlifelab
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Happy almost 2018, Life Lab fans! We are only $809 dollars away from reaching our $124,000 year-end fundraising goal! Before you ring in the new year, will you help us ensure a promising 2018? 100% of the funds necessary to do this important work come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that we can continue to deepen and expand our reach, so that even more children can experience the joy of loving learning, healthy food, and nature? Your tax-deductible gift made by midnight tonight will go directly to supporting our programs.
www.lifelab.org/donate
#beapartofit, #changinglives, #optoutside, #gardenbasededucation, #happynewyear
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

End the year making a life-chaning difference!
www.lifelab.org/donate
#beapartofit, #hopeforthefuture, #Happy2018!, #workingtogether
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

#beapartofit
www.lifelab.org/donate
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

With women and people of color still underrepresented in scientific fields, "I'm a scientist!" is a powerful statement coming from a 2nd grade girl in Watsonville. It came during a field trip to our Blooming Classroom field trip program. Young students look at flowers on living plants in the garden, see pollinators interacting with them, and pick a flower to dissect and explore its parts. Then they draw the flower and label all the parts they learned about in a lesson with our garden educators. This hands-on, garden-based science in action, and the feeling it gives students is exciting!

These ah-ha moments happen all the time at Life Lab, inspiring children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature. 100% of the funds needed to create these life-changing experiences come from grants and from individuals like you. Will you join us in ensuring that thousands of children each year can experience the joy of hands-on garden-based learning? Your tax-deductible gift will go directly to supporting our programs.

#beapartofit, #thisiswhatascientistlookslike, #creatingchange, #hopeforthefuture
www.lifelab.org/donate
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

We all know that hands-on experiences are critical to learning. No one would dream of teaching technology without computers: in fact, in many schools today they are mandating 30 minutes of screen time per student, per day. Why on earth with this understanding are we trying to teach earth and life science without giving them exposure to earth and life? School gardens are spaces--outdoor classrooms--where students can learn science and apply math and language arts, in a context that feels relevant to them. And what might happen if we elevated the status of hands-on, experiential, outdoor learning? What might happen if schools started mandating 30 minutes of dirt time per student per day? This would be time where they could apply what they're learning in the classroom outdoors to the world around them and develop a connection to it. Well that’s what we’re here to find out!
#beapartofit, #dirttime, #getoutside, #handsonlearning,
www.lifelab.org/donate
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

"This field trip was a fun experience that taught me how to eat healthy food in a fun way." -6th grader on a Feeling Fine with Fresh Foods Field Trip
Help grow the next generation of healthy eaters!
www.lifelab.org/donate
#beapartofit, #healthyeating, #isupportlifelab, #donate, #gardenbasededucation
... See MoreSee Less

View on Facebook

Watch us on Youtube

View Life Lab Channel

Life Lab has been the most innovative and relevant organization in this field. From providing the best curriculum to their cutting edge professional development, we have relied on Life Lab as our go to organization for support, ideas, and collaboration.
Rachel PringleSenior Director of ProgramsEducation Outside
Life Lab provides truly inspiring training. Their breadth of experience, joy for teaching, and commitment to sharing knowledge highlight the best practices in food and garden education.
Erica CurryTraining and Professional Development ManagerFoodCorps
Thank you for such a wonderful field trip experience! Your leaders did such a great job at keeping our kids engaged.
Sheila BrickenKindergarten TeacherSan Lorenzo Valley Elementary
Terry had another awesome two weeks at Life Lab. I think he learns more there than in any other part of his year. School is great, but he’s passionate (and often dogmatic) about what he learns there.
Tara NeierCamp ParentSummer camp mom