- do your homework
- make the pitch
- build a team
- create goals and anticipate challenges
- take inventory of components
- map assets
- develop garden club program for the season/year
- get growing
- share success
Do Your Homework
In the very beginning of the creation of a school garden club, some time must be dedicated to looking for local and distant organizations that support garden-based learning. Connect with existing successful school gardens to find how they got to where they are today, learn from challenges that they have faced, potentially share resources and find opportunities to support. Arrange to meet the individuals behind the school garden and check out what they’ve got going on. This is also a way to avoid reinventing the wheel.
Make the Pitch
If the school administration is not already on board, this is the time to do it. You’ll want to explain how the school garden club will support the students, could possibly be integrated into the curriculum, act as an outdoor classroom (if there will be an outdoor component), and build community. Prior to the pitch, if possible, start connecting with teachers who are interested in supporting the club. Working with these people, and the information gathered in the Homework stage, come up with a rough outline including preliminary design ideas, a location proposal, timeline, budget estimate, fundraising strategy and a stewardship and maintenance plan.
Once your administration is on board, it is important to have a conversation with the groundskeeper(s) and other maintenance people at the school. They will play a vital role in the success of the garden club and likely have valuable knowledge and input on the project. The school district should also be informed of the project as they are likely responsible for the general facilities maintenance of all schools in the district. They may be able to provide additional resources and/or access to equipment. For bother of these parties (school maintenance and district) it is important to have a shared understanding of who will be responsible for the garden and what should be expected.
Build a Team
“One of the best parts of starting a garden project is the wonderful opportunity for collaboration…”from How to Grow a School Garden by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle
Make a list of all of the people already involved at the school that are interested in supporting the school garden club: parents, teachers, administrators, grounds keepers, maintenance people. Then create another list for members of the community that can bring a wider range of skills to the group. Some talents will be obvious (landscapers, horticulturalists, gardeners) but there are plenty of others that can be just as valuable, like people with writing skills, photographers, organizers, activists, bee keepers, carpenters, etc.
It’s a good idea to schedule a meeting to bring together all, or as many as possible, of the people on your lists. “A school garden committee, no different from any other group of people, is based on relationships, and taking the time to develop them is helpful”. Create an agenda, find a time and date that works for as many people as possible and consider writing a letter of invitation to send out so that the messaging is consistent and people know what to expect.
From this larger group of people, work to establish a core group of people to make up the Organizing Committee for the garden club. Be sure to include a combination of parents, school staff ,community members and potentially older students. Everyone who is not part of the committee will be part of the greater garden club Support Team.
Collect contact information from everyone on the committee and support team to share internally. If possible, include skills, areas of expertise/interest, availability, affiliation (if the members are part of another organization that can help) and other things each person can bring to the group. Decide on a way to share information, either through an email group, message board, website, or something else.
Create Goals and Anticipate Challenges
What would the group like to do as soon as reasonably possible? How can the garden and club grow in coming years? Spend some time considering and articulating what you want to accomplish (goals) and how you will get there (objectives). This will help the group to feel a sense of purpose and will help with decision making and fundraising in the future. Some potential goals could be: grow food to contribute to the school lunch program, plant a native species garden, develop a food waste recovery and compost system, grow flowers for pollinators, incorporate the school garden in some way in each grade in the school curriculum.
Anticipating challenges is in itself challenging, but still an important part of the process. You may have learned from the mistakes of other school garden clubs contacted in the Homework stage. Maybe there was a garden club at your school in the past that did not, in the end, succeed. Find out why and come up with a plan to avoid suffering the same fate. Challenges can include many thing from loss of interest or personality conflicts to deer mowing the whole garden overnight or vandals damaging or stealing plants or tools. It is impossible to predict the future, so expect challenges even after you complete this stage. When the challenges do come, and you’ve worked together to overcome, evaluate what happened and document the process to share with future clubs or even other schools. Remember, smooth seas to not make skillful sailors.
Inventory of Components
|Site Components||Social Components||Energy Components||Abstract Components|
|(ex. water, landscape, climate, existing plants)||(ex. students, parents, teachers, groundskeeper/maintenance, donors, collaborative organizations)||(ex. technologies, structures, sources, connections)||(ex. timing , data, ethics)|