Garden Classroom Management

How to Facilitate School Participation, Student Buy-In, and Interactions with the Garden

How to get people invested in the garden

  • Instill a sense of ownership and love for the garden
  • Invite students to the garden at different times of the year to see the progress of fruits and vegetables that they helped plant
  • Give them the opportunity to vote for a name of the garden – personalizing for the particular class/classes involved with the garden at the time. When it’s passed on the new students would get to name their own.
  • Have them personalize some individual flower pots or the garden beds (paint/decorate them)
  • Decorate the Garden Area with eco-friendly/recycled materials/artwork.

Rewarding/spotlighting great effort regularly (weekly)

  • Give extra responsibilities like the opportunity to open the tool storage (give the key)
  • Assign someone to be in charge of the hose and filling the buckets/watering cans
  • Assign someone to be in charge of deciding what garden tasks need to be done and who gets which jobs (it’d be a different person every week, depending on who works extra hard)

→ teachers need to keep an eye on how each student interacts with the garden.

  • Adopt-a-plant program
  • Have students cook what they harvest in their kitchen classes
  • Support classes in generating their own rules for respecting the plants, animals, and people in the garden
  • Help incoming younger students with fun activities like apple cider making, corn tasting, tea making, chicken play, foraging, and exploring
  • Let students choose their own work groups or rotate garden jobs on a weekly basis so that everyone hits major garden tasks (such as cultivating, harvesting, compost, greenhouse, etc.)
  • Provide protective gear like boots, gloves, and aprons to help everyone feel comfortable and prepared

–> Be flexible as a teacher and change garden jobs when necessary

–> Listen to students and enjoy informal conversation

–> Encourage them to really interact with the plants, to not be afraid to dissect them so they can explore the plant’s physical structures (not just for eating or looking pretty)

–>Encourage them to investigate the plants and ask questions. Teachers should encourage this and try to answer questions or encourage them to look/research to find their own answers.

–> Take breaks to forage for snacks

–> Have a Harvest-to-Home giveaway (so that everyone feels ownership and reaps the fruits of the labor)

–> Consider having the first session in the classroom in order to introduce the culture of the garden in a familiar space

–> For older grades, give them a task to develop lesson plans for younger students (pre-k, Kindergarten, 1st grade etc) that have to do with the garden. This gives them the chance to be in charge and teach what they know (maybe once every other month). It also allows for supervised interactions with the garden by the kids that normally won’t get much opportunity to be as involved.

** In the winter, start with some indoor growing of seedlings for spring planting that they can transfer into the garden later — so they don’t lose interest in the garden after the break/later in the school year.

OR at the end of the school year students get to take one of the plants to transplant at home (if there’s enough healthy portable plants available) and then plant cover crops in the school garden.

Routines and Rituals

Routines and rituals create a culture so students know what to expect

  • Have an opening and closing circle at the beginning and end of each class
  • Share leadership of opening and closing circles between all the garden staff
  • Keep students informed by introducing volunteers, tours, media visits, etc.
  • Introduce the tasks for the day and the closing circle activity in the opening
  • Have each group leader explain his/her garden job
  • Experiment with different systems for breaking the class into working groups (possibilities include the teacher deciding beforehand, counting off, letting students choose their groups, etc.)
  • Circle up in working groups with a check-in question prior to beginning work
  • At the end of the session ask the students what they think needs to be done and what the garden tasks for next week should be.
  • Wait to eat, until everyone is served in the circle
  • Pick some of the plants for end of each work day for fun and snacks → Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, carrots, sweet peas, cucumbers even things like sweet potatoes (made into wedges/fries or chips – are very quick and easy to make & delicious). Things that grow and can be eaten quickly. Immediately plant more seeds in the empty spaces, removing plants that won’t grow as well in the coming months (i.e. cool growing vs. warm growing) with ones that will taste better the colder it gets. Keep a regular cycle of harvesting and planting in the changing seasons.
    Positive Discipline
  • Encourage students to be their best selves
  • Say “Yes” and notice what students are doing well
  • Think of garden jobs that will bring out the best in particular students or groups, and figure out appropriate work for particular people’s needs
  • Ask questions (e.g. “Why do you think you got pulled out of circle?”)
  • If a student gets sent out of the group, have an adult follow up with a discussion with the student