Starting a garden does not mean that the entire schoolyard must be reconstructed, it can start by simply introducing children to planting seeds in the classroom and at home. There is something so magical about planting a tiny seed and watching it grow into a plant that provides food.
Much of the reason that many gardens fail is due to the permaculture type 1 error: failure in design. Too much weeding, watering, and other maintenance sets up a system for failure. Instead of constructing raised beds that need daily watering, why not make them mulched wicking beds that need water once each week and naturally suppress weeds? Assess the location of your future garden: does it have easy access to water or somewhere for rain barrels? Where will the compost bins go? Will you have somewhere to store garden tools?
Perhaps an annual garden seems to be a bit too much work. Instead of planning ahead for 1 year, plan ahead for 100 years by installing a food forest! By installing a well designed perennial system with ample seating, your school will have an outdoor classroom for instant (and free) "field trips" and will require very little maintenance or watering past the first couple of years... not to mention FOOD!
Below is a list of resources to get you started on your journey to making your school yard (or home yard) into an oasis for fun, relaxation and FOOD!
We had the pleasure of meeting Ron Finley in Calgary May 2013. He is a truly inspiring and loving man who believes that a change in our society starts in the garden. Here is his motivational talk (there is a bit of course language):
Guerilla Gardner Ron Finley
Richard Louv, an author and advocate for getting children outdoors, was the keynote speaker at the ACEE conference in Canmore April 2013 that Sara attended. His work put into words what teachers and parents have known for generations: children perform and behave better when they have ample access to nature. We highly recommend his book "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" to learn more.
To get you started on your journey to transforming your schoolyard to a magical, nature-focused environment "Asphalt to Ecosystems" has loads of ideas. The author provides examples from all over the world of the unique ideas that schools have incorporated into their designs. Not only do the transformations aid in preventing "nature-deficit disorder", they can reduce playground bullying (p. 8) and have a whole host of other benefits.
To get you and your teammates started on your food growing journey, check out this resource document we have put together for you:
Most importantly...Have fun teaching (and learning) about how to be more sustainable by growing food in your classrooms and on school grounds!