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Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 2017 Michigan School Garden Newsletter


August 2017


Here is our "Back to School" issue – hope you're ready!! 



Good classroom management in the garden makes a big difference

Set your class up for success in the garden by following these tips.


by Kaitlin Wojciak


For students, teachers and parents alike, it's hard to believe that the beginning of the school year is upon us! The good news is that the first month (and sometimes longer) of the school year is prime school garden time. If your school garden benefitted from summer care and tending, there are likely many fall season crops ready for harvest, just in time for students returning to school to experience and enjoy. If you didn't have a care plan in place for the summer, or it didn't go according to plan, most locations in Michigan have enough time to seed and harvest some quick maturing fall crops such as radishes, spinach, lettuces and peas.


An important aspect of incorporating the garden into your school day and curriculum is classroom management. As a teacher, parent, or volunteer, having a plan for how to manage time spent with students in the garden can be the difference between a fruitful educational experience and a hectic ride, attempting to find some semblance of order.


Whether your students are just experiencing their first garden activities or are seasoned garden participants, it is important to revisit acceptable behavior in the garden as you plan and discuss your first outside lessons. These tips from Life Lab's Gardens for Learning curriculum can help set up good guidelines and rules for time spent in the garden classroom.


  • Establish garden rules prior to spending time in the garden. It can help to also have the rules posted in the garden, and phrase them positively. Some examples are:
    • Stay on the pathways
    • Ask before you pick
    • Give your neighbor some room
  • Have a tool training before going into the garden. Share the tools that you'll be using, their purpose, and a short demonstration of how to safely use them. Emphasize keeping tools below your waist, and not running with tools in hand. Some teachers have found it helpful to demonstrate using the tools in front of their students and asking for feedback (showing some unsafe behaviors as well).
  • Find some help. At least one other adult volunteer is a must. Student parents and/or Master Gardener volunteers from your local Michigan State University Extension office can often provide assistance. This would allow one of you to leave if there is an emergency and have the rest of the class remain supervised. More hands are better, especially if you plan to have smaller group hands-on activities, which is what makes the garden such an effective teaching tool.
  • Try out smaller group activities to maximize hands-on activities and learning. Providing clipboards for students can make garden activities such as data collection more manageable as well.
  • Create a designated seated space. Especially when the class will be outside for a longer period of time, it is helpful to have a comfortable area where everyone can gather, listen and learn without being crowded and not being able to see or hear clearly.


Experienced garden teachers and leaders will have tips and tricks of their own – be sure to ask others who have been leading activities in the garden to share their wisdom. Sometimes a small tip can turn into a big difference in improving the learning environment in the garden.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Social and Emotional Health Are Important Benefits of School Gardens

School gardens can provide social and emotional health benefits to both students and teachers.


by Kristine Hahn


A teacher surprised me several years ago by telling me that she had noticed "real improvements in the social and emotional health of her students after they had a class in the school garden."   At the time, I remember thinking this was very positive, but I regarded it as anecdotal. Since then I have read several studies that confirm the real and significant social and emotional health benefits for both the students and the teachers from school gardens. 


While the academic benefits of school gardens for students have become more widely accepted in recent years, the social and emotional benefits are often overlooked.  This oversight is significant, as social and emotional health are often prerequisites for academic achievement. 


The following studies show improvements in social metrics we know to be vital to students' feelings of well-being and therefore, ability to learn.  For example, a study by Habib and Doherty in 2007 show that large number of students report "that they feel 'calm,' 'safe', and 'relaxed' in the school garden".  Additionally, children who work in gardens are more likely to accept people different from themselves, according to Dyment & Bell, 2006.   Moreover, a study of third, fourth and fifth graders by Robinson & Zajicek in 2005 showed that students participating in a garden program had increased self-understanding, interpersonal skills and cooperative skills when compared to non-gardening students.  All of those studies show improvements in pro-social behavior that is important to children being happy with themselves and with others. 


Equally as important, students involved with school gardens generally take pleasure in learning and show positive attitudes toward education (Canaris, 1995; Dirks & Orvis, 2005).   This study indicates that children that participate in school gardens enjoy their learning experiences and develop healthy attitudes towards learning. 


Additional studies also show that school gardens can be a factor in teachers' well-being.  According to Skelly & Bradley (2000), teachers who worked in schools with garden programs had higher workplace morale and increased "general satisfaction with being a teacher at that school.  Collectively, these studies indicate that schools with gardens contribute to a more emotionally healthy place.  And isn't that what we all want for our children and schools?  

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).




School Garden Grant Information


  • American Honda Foundation - Due dates three times per year
    • Schools, nonprofits classified as 501(c) (3) s and private or public schools (elementary and secondary) are eligible.
    • Award range: $20,000 - $75,000 for one year
  • Captain Planet FoundationDue September 30th for spring and summer projects
    • Schools, nonprofits and other organizations classified as 501(c) (3) are eligible
    • Projects must: be project-based; performed by youth; have real environmental outcomes; be based in the United States.
    • Award range is between $500 - $2500. At least 50% matching or in-kind funding for projects is preferred.
  • The Home Depot FoundationCommunity Impact Grants currently open
    • Schools and 501(c) (3) organizations are eligible.
    • Awards are up to $5,000
    • The Home Depot also has opportunities to match donations from local stores with nonprofits. Follow this link for more information on how to request a match. 
  • Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation
    • Public schools are eligible
    • Awards from $5,000 - $25,000
    • Visit this link to answer preliminary questions and learn more.
  • Project Produce Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schoolsdistributed on a rolling basis
    • Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible.
    • Must be submitted by district food service director.
    • These grants are $2,500 and can assist with offering educational activities in the lunchroom, encouraging students to try new veggies and fruits.
  • Salad Bars to School Grant
    • Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible to apply. To qualify for a Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools grant, applicants must offer the salad bar as part of the reimbursable meal served in your district.
    • Schools use the award (approximately $2,955 value) to implement salad bars as part of their daily meal program
    • For more information and to apply, follow this link.
  • Target Field Trip GrantsOpen from August 1, 2017 – October 1, 2017 (CST)
    • K-12 public, private or charter schools in the US that maintain a 501 (c)(3) or 509(a)(1) tax-exempt status
    • Must be submitted by a teacher, educator, principal, paraprofessional or classified staff of the above institutions
    • Awards are $700 to contribute to an educational field trip experience
  • Whole Kids Foundation School Garden GrantOpen from September 1st through October 31st, 2017 (CST)
    • K-12 Schools, 501(c)(3) non profits working in partnership with K-12 schools, or a 501(c)(3) non profit organization.
    • Awards are $2,000
    • Informational webinars are available at the above link
  • Youth Micro-grants through Karma for Cara FoundationRolling deadline
    • Youth under age 18 who are working on a community service project (including school and community gardens).
    • Awards are between $250 - $1,000.


School Garden Educational Opportunities


Save the Date: 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
April 26-27, 2018 // Cincinnati, OH
Save the date for the 9th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference
coming to Cincinnati, Ohio, April 26-27, 2018! Hosted by the National Farm
to School Network, The National Farm to Cafeteria Conference is the only national gathering of
stakeholders from across this movement, making it the premiere opportunity
to learn, network and collaborate with likeminded leaders from across the
country. Learn more and sign-up for updates at


GLSI 2017 Great Lakes Place-based Education Conference

The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative invites you to join us for the 6th annual Place-Based Education Conference. Come experience a three day conference designed to inspire and support a community of educators around the power of place-based learning.

Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 8:00 AM EST
Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM EST

Eastern Michigan University Student Center
900 Oakwood St.
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

  1. MOFFA (Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance) Educational Opportunities
  • North American Association of Environmental Educators Professional Development






Kristine Hahn

Michigan State University Extension Educator

Community Food Systems

Oakland County Office

1200 Telegraph Rd. #26E

Pontiac, MI 48341


*Please note the my new office location

MSU is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer.  Michigan State University programs and materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status.

"Always be humble and kind." - Tim McGraw


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