Teaching gardens can learn from this Dallas school

How charming to see a word as tricky as “chlorophyll” correctly written in learning-to-print letters! Even more charming to think that the knowledge came from a plant that children had grown themselves from seed, transplanted, tended and soon would taste.

It’s all in a school-day’s work in Stonewall Gardens at Stonewall Jackson Elementary School on Mockingbird Lane in East Dallas, Texas. Members of the Garden Writers Association had the good fortune to visit last week to learn about this successful teaching garden… one that has been growing (and growing budding gardeners) since 1986.

It works on a simple model. Each child gets one plant per season. They start the plant from seed and take complete care of it, recording its progress in their garden journals and enjoying the fruits of their labour. They even weed the garden, and make compost and mulch. The garden is integrated with the curriculum across many subjects, from science to composition and art.

One child, one plant: for each of nearly 600 students from kindergarten to grade five. It’s a story that started with a patch of beans nearly 15 years ago and now covers an impressive 20,000 square feet – including a small greenhouse and a few very decorative chickens. After their school board eliminated their funding, the parents and community rallied to fill the gap, and since 2009 Stonewall Gardens has been its own volunteer-led non-profit organization. Even Stonewall alumni come back as volunteers.

Now that school’s in for 2010-2011, this garden might be worth putting on the agenda for your next school council meeting. It takes time to put programs like this in place. First, you have to plant the seed.


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