Regional support models can empower garden champions at school sites, build partnerships that support garden programs, and lay the foundation for long-term sustainability. Regional support models can be made up of one or more of the following types of organizations:
- Community Volunteer Based Models (Master Gardeners, Volunteers, Scouts, Community Gardens)
- Non-profit Support Organizations
- University / Service Learning Programs
- Government Programs (Department of Education, Food and Ag, Municipalities, etc.
- School Districts
- Policy that Supports School Gardens
- Nutrition and Waste Management Funded Programs
Visit the National School Garden Network, a forum of School Garden Support Professionals.
Read more on our blog: Sustaining School Gardens – Funding Garden Coordinators
The following presentation is part of a longer webinar on regional support models for school gardens.
Common Challenges in Creating and Sustaining School Gardens
- Schools have limited funding.
- Mounting a garden project is a huge task and requires community engagement.
- Summer break creates maintenance challenges. Summer break can also create programming/planning challenges.
- Teachers have their own set of complex variables: no time, many responsibilities, lack of interest, and little knowledge about teaching in the out of doors.
- There are challenges of planning and implementation of solid curriculum that directly links to academic content.
- Networking and communications within the school community requires sophisticated outreach and community building skill. Creating a culture of “environmental solidarity” with all aspects of the school day requires planning (lunchroom composting, classroom recycling, roofwater catchment, non toxic cleaners, organic garden, etc)
- Gardens take a lot of maintenance and a special skill set to keep thriving.
Benefits of a Regional Network
There is power in unity!
- Networks can get larger pools of funding (ie: parcel tax, bond funding, district wide funding). Individual schools can get parent & local support, but often not much more.
Larger networks have greater political clout when they speak with one voice they can more easily attain:
- District wide program development (institutionalized curriculum or program planning, etc)
- A network develops relationships, collaborations and colleagues – which in turn strengthen the network
- A network shares the burden, and “recharges the well “by developing relationships
- Landscape resources can be bundled and costs can be reduced (or free) when managed by a network (compost, mulch, soil, etc)
- A network is resilient (more than one person)
- A network acts like a funnel- gathering and sending information where it is most needed.
- A network can share best practices by understanding the journey of many. This can help to make programs more efficient/successful – less “re creating the wheel”
Elements of Regional Networks
What a successful network looks like & how does it operate
- There is no "one model" of a successful support network/program
- Networks serve their members and members are responsive/active to/in the network
- Networks usually have a mission and defined purpose which is know among its members
- Often these networks are acknowledged by the district which they serve (posted on district web site, proclamation/board resolutions or larger involvement such as funding, staffing, professional development)
- Ideally these networks become a program of the district or a project of a non-profit.
Institutionalizing school gardens and creating a school garden culture often requires the network to support the following tasks/elements:
- Creating the garden
- Maintaining the garden
- Sustaining the garden (financially)
- Providing professional development and curriculum to support teachers using the garden
- An understanding of teacher/school culture and needs
- Networking meetings, workdays, workshops, and e-communication (NING, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, email lists)
Regional Support Organizations Across the Nation