By John Moriarty, Executive Director
School Garden Project is celebrating our 15th birthday this year. I feel so fortunate to be part of this amazing history. When I reflect on the success, opportunities and challenges we are experiencing now, I am reminded of the amazing people who have contributed their time, energy, talent and money to School Garden Project since 2001 (and even before). The list is too long to name names, but I want to express my sincere gratitude to all the dedicated board members, thousands of volunteers, hundreds of individual donors, amazing businesses, generous foundations and incredible staff members who have worked together for more than 15 years to provide children with school garden education. Thank you.
One of School Garden Project’s goals is to make school garden education available to every child in Lane County. We have much work ahead to reach that goal. We are taking a big step in that direction as we prepare to expand our in-school garden education program to at least 3 more schools in fall 2016.
Three New Initiatives
First, in addition to reaching new schools in the fall, we will also assume responsibility for the Farm to School education program from Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. Our staff have already begun planning to integrate farm field trips with garden education, as well as develop a pilot middle school farm field trip program. We will begin by working with just 3 schools, but hope to increase that number over time.
Second, School Garden Project is working to take significant steps with our Teacher Professional Development projects. We have long recognized that increasing the capacity of teachers to use school gardens with their students is key to bringing more students into gardens throughout the county. This winter we have been developing a learning opportunity for teachers that would increase their ability to teach in the garden, while simultaneously strengthening science curriculum that aligns with the new Next Generation Science Standards.
Third, with support from the Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, we are adapting our in-school garden science lessons to make them accessible for students with special educational needs. Lack of access for special needs students is just one of many crucial equity issues in our community. We are fortunate to be working with some wonderful special education teachers as advisers on this project.
These are major steps for our small
organization, but ones we feel are perfectly aligned with our mission and vision of providing school garden education that helps children become healthy adults who eat their fruits and vegetables, know the basics of growing food and contribute to a thriving community. These new initiatives depend on sufficient funding. We are preparing proposals to multiple foundations to provide initial support. Even if all of those proposals are successful, long term sustainability will depend on the support of our local community—the same amazing support that has brought us this far.