School gardens throughout the district are thriving, thanks to the dedication of students, families, school PTOs, staff, local businesses, and Carver County Master Gardeners. These gardens are a source of learning for students throughout the summer and into the school year. Teachers from a variety of studies, including science, social studies, math/engineering, etc., often creatively incorporate their school garden into Standards-Based lesson plans to learn about topics such as life-cycle, germination, the history of the land, and more. Not only do students enjoy the school gardens and have fun taking care of them, but they also walk away with a strong sense of community and environmental stewardship. This sustainable model makes for great learning opportunities. Learn about the school gardens in our district:
Bluff Creek Elementary
Students planted the first seeds in this garden four years ago with the goal of establishing an outdoor focal point for learning. At the start of the garden year, students start seeds inside the school and keep them watered while making observations during STEAM classes. In May, they have a planting day where Carver County Master Gardeners and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture guide students through planting and agricultural education sessions. Families volunteer to water the garden throughout the summer and often bring the fresh produce to local food shelves. When students come back to school, they spend time in STEAM classes exploring the garden and the changes they’ve observed since spring. Thanks to donations and partnerships with local businesses (such as Lakewinds Food Coop, Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, Garden by the Woods, Ace Hardware, and Shady Acres Herb Farm), Bluff Creek Elementary’s school garden has blossomed into a fruitful outdoor classroom. You can follow their garden journey on both Facebook and Instagram.
Integrated Arts Academy
Integrated Arts Academy students plant vegetables and other plants that directly benefit their culinary arts, horticultural, and textile and floral design programs. Come fall harvest, students will use herbs in their culinary classes. Integrated Arts Academy students also work with elementary schools on gardening, furthering the sustainable teaching model of school gardens. SHIP grant funds and a number of local organizations help support their work.
East Union Elementary
The produce harvested from East Union Elementary’s school garden, which in part is also supported by SHIP grant funds, is either used by students and their families at home or donated to the local food shelf. A number of local nurseries, including Garden by the Woods and Willow Winds Gardens, as well as individual donors, Toni Dauwalter and Sarah Prescher, have sponsored trees for the orchard. Last week, 35 teachers with Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom visited the school to hear from Principal Jay Woller about how they incorporate agriculture literacy into K-5 curriculum and to showcase their garden/orchard efforts.
Chanhassen High School
This garden was founded last year as part of a student’s Capstone project; every high school senior that attends Eastern Carver County Schools completes a Capstone, a project that applies real-world skills and serves as a culmination of a student’s high school career. Since then, the garden has grown significantly and has helped to ignite many students’ thirst to continue their education outside the typical classroom setting. Now, a group of students meets regularly to design, plant, maintain, and learn from the Chanhassen High School garden, but the whole the school community assists with the upkeep of the garden. This past spring, over 200 students volunteered to move eleven yards of garden soil into the 356 square feet of garden space. Adolescent mental health treatment center, Annicca, is helping maintain the garden over the summer.
Each spring, students, parents, teachers, (and even family members!), pick up a shovel and put on their gardening gloves to prepare for growing season. Today, the garden is sprouted with vegetables that, at one point in time, were seeds donated by a local agricultural organization.
Victoria Elementary School Garden
Victoria Elementary school garden began with a grant and the commissioning of Master Gardeners. These gardeners spent time planting and doing activities with each classroom at each grade level. Students and their families have eagerly volunteered their time to tend to the garden through the summer.
La Academia School Garden
La Academia is in the early stages of their school garden; La Academia and Kinder Academy parents have organized a garden committee to coordinate summer gardening efforts.
School gardens benefit curriculum, the environment, the physical, social, and emotional health of students, as well as the community. The hard work and generosity of parent volunteers are key to the logistics of school gardens. Thank you for making these powerful environmental education tools available to our students!
When sharing garden photos on social media, be sure to hashtag #112Grows. We look forward to seeing how the gardens continue to grow throughout the summer!