3 reasons to invite your community into your school garden

1.  People like knowing good things are happening in their community.  Every year our school hosts an open house for Global Youth Service Day.  Last year our “Garden Ambassadors” led garden tours for community members as part of the program.  We had neighbors, business owners, school board members, fellow gardeners—even the librarians walked up to the campus in shifts.  More than one adult approached me with tears in their eyes, saying “This is so wonderful.”  Seeing kids poised, knowledgeable, and proud of a project they’re involved in…..well, it just feels good, and makes you happy to know that it’s going on in the place where you live .

Garden Ambassadors orients visitors at our bulletin board

2.  If people are going to support their local schools, they need to be connected to them. Last Spring the women’s group from my church asked for a tour in conjunction with their monthly meeting.  Some of them had not stepped foot on campus in twenty years (when their kids were students); some of them had never stepped foot on campus.  And once they did….they noticed our beautiful murals….and our commanding view of Mt. Volcan from our playground…..and the fact that we have a full-time PE teacher!  I had to keep coaxing them back to the garden, as they were caught up in looking around with excitement.  As we were sitting at the table starting our tour, one of the teacher aides walked up with a quilt.  She had sewn a beautiful quilt for a raffle to support the tsunami victims in Japan. Seeing the women assembled, she asked if she could show it and explain the fundraiser.  Naturally I invited her over, and the dollar bills started flying across the table–“I’ll take two tickets,”  “Here’s a donation!” “I’ll take a ticket, keep the change.”  Sometimes people simply need to know what’s going on to be a part of it.

I love these ladies!

3.  You never know what connections and possibilities these visits may produce.   After a visit, a neighbor donated a small solar panel unit.  A retired school teacher brought by three asclepsis plants for our habitat garden (each one had monarch eggs, a chrysalis and even caterpillars) and then gave a wonderful presentation to the first grade students.  And then…….

Last summer a parent volunteer invited her neighbor to tour the garden.  An artist, the neighbor also runs a local business.  After visiting the garden, she decided to create a mosaic sculpture for us.  When I called to thank her and ask why she made such a generous and spontaneous donation, she cited everything from the “beautiful yellow snapdragons” to the fact that some of her clients work at the school, and she wanted to do this for them.  I was on vacation when the piece was delivered, and I was amazed to see it sitting in the garden when I returned—a unexpected grace note.  We held a ceremony and unveling, with the Garden Ambassadors assisting, and it sits in our butterfly garden today.

The artist Coco Leeras with "Gardens Grow Magic"

14 thoughts on “3 reasons to invite your community into your school garden

  1. Thanks so much for visiting Nyack Backyard and for letting me know about your blog. I can’t wait to explore it more — looks like a great resource! I thought my days in the school garden were done when my kids left elementary school, but I find myself being lured back, since we now have to convince the new principal that it is, indeed, important! An open house is a great idea – we tried one last year but it was on a 100+ degree day and the turnout was not so great. But you’ve given me some great ideas with this post and now I’m inspired to try again!

  2. Chris is right when he says you nailed it. This type of rationale not only applies to community gardens, but all community led initiatives. As always, you inspire me my friend by the way you live life so fully and vibrantly. If you haven’t already heard of this guy, you have to check out the Bronx Green Machine Project. It is being led by a teacher named Stephen Ritz. The video I’m sending you doesn’t even start to do what they are doing justice. I just heard him speak on a TED sponsored event and his presentation isn’t available to view online yet, but as soon as it is, I’ll send it your way. I think it would be right up your alley.

    • I will definitely take a look at it—thanks for the lead. I just looked at the CLP (after seeing some pictures of you deep into creative planning process.) Keep posting on that, as I’d like to learn more! And thanks for the affirmation. I feel exactly the same about you, vibrant woman you are!

  3. Hey, Tricia,
    What a neat report. Thanks for the wonderful picture of the UMW. I was away that day and missed their tour. Every time I come to the garden I see something new, and every time it seems that someone new has gotten involved. The garden inspires our whole little town.
    Pastor Dawn

    • “The garden inspires our whole little town”—what high praise. The garden receives so much from so many people, so I’m glad it gives back. Thanks for always taking an interest in what we are doing.

    • Thanks for the comment love and the initial blog start-up advice. I must say—I am loving this forum for telling stories. I have a dozen more ready to go, just trying to space them out. And yes, the UMW are rockstars!

  4. Very inspiring Trish! Thank you. Just gave me the answer to the ‘what/how to do’ swirling in my head! Very lovely indeed.

  5. T,
    I love it. Grandma O’Connor always told me to get my hands dirty because the plant needs to know that you care.Never forgot it and never bought a pair of garden gloves. Dad

    • I don’t remember hearing this Dad! I think my earliest garden memories were of my grandmas’ gardens. I remember poking around Grandma and Grandpa O’Connors down in the yard and the smell of fresh green beans cooking. And I always think of Grandma Sturm every time I smell a marigold (I plant them every year because of this!)

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