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School Garden Bus Tour


School Garden Tour- Fall 2017

The Inaugural School Garden Bus Tour hosted by Sue Hogan (OSU, 4H, Project Green Teacher) was an inspiring day, and GreenSTEMS was along for the ride to learn, connect, and prepare for innovation.


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Granville Schools

Jim Reding, North American Environmental Education Association K-12 Educator of the Year, inspires students to take ownership of the school garden and sustainability projects. The students are advised to “Dream big, and take small steps” to creating actionable sustainability projects on school grounds. Students on the tour talked about how they reflect more about their impact on the environment, their consuming habits, and their eating habits. They are in the garden every day; observing, weeding, pruning, planting, selling (in the summer), picking bugs, or planting. Food from the garden becomes the center attraction during chef created nutritional, inspiring school lunches, and welcoming community events.






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Attached to the garden (above) is also a greenhouse where students experiment with aquaponics and growing Tilapia. The Hügelkultur is a great addition that gets the creative juices flowing.  

Nearby we visit the Land Lab. The use of this land is a great example of how partnerships with governmental agencies like the US Fish and Wildlife Foundation can help big dreams come true. The lab is being developed in several phases to develop outdoor learning environments. Eagles, hawks, owls, ducks, birds, snakes, migratory butterflies have become frequent visitors and even some homesteaders  to the lab. The lab provides inspiration for students to complete science, art, photography, writing, and other classroom projects. It will be exciting to see Phase 3 come to fruition as native fruit and berry trees and bushes get planted and eventually become integrated in the school lunches.


Columbus Jewish Day School

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At CJDS there were several gardens and outdoor learning environments. Gina and the Rabbi were amazing hosts for our tour, and were very compassionate in their explanations of the meaning behind the different aspects of their gardens. For example, there was a butterfly garden that plays a central role in the hearts and minds of families of the school community by providing a place for a butterfly release for lost loved ones. There were continuous connections between outdoor spaces, faith, and curriculum. The experience of the environment seemed to encourage children to experience their faith and the curriculum in tangible ways that otherwise would be left to pages in a book. Community Service was an enormous part of what the school would like to impart to their students through work in the garden. Partnering with a local greenhouse, the students have been able to deliver an average (per year) of 2,000lbs of fresh produce to about 480 people living on fixed incomes. Service to the community learned through faith and the gardens was a major takeaway from this little school with big impact.


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All the morning talk of fresh fruits and veggies was beginning to take its toll, and I was becoming a bit famished. Luckily at that time we had lunch at the FPC, and got ready to tour the Scott’s Miracle Grow Children's’ Garden. The vision to create a children’s park takes years of preparation (just ask the Cincinnati Nature Center). As it says on the brochure, “The Conservatory hopes to increase children’s green time while reducing screen time, through opportunities for unstructured outdoor play.” And, yes, this is the focus. There are places to play, run, roll down hills, hide, manipulate, and even contemplate. There is an enormous accessible walkway that ends in a Cardinal nest resting in the branches of a mulberry tree designed to give children the real tree canopy experience. There’s a stage, stilt platforms, and shallow water areas for exciting mud & water times. Ohio connections are embedded everywhere from the previously mention nest to the giant Salamander Mound, to the trilobite fossils embedded in the walls. Opening to the public in April of 2018, this will be a great nature attraction for schools and families alike.     


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Highland Youth Garden (and on FB)

The HYG is a community and educational programming champion! These folks are intentional, committed, and inspirational, not only to visitors, but to the children of the community who have a safe outdoor space to try new foods, learn about nutritious food and how to grow it. The garden, ran by a steering committee and mostly volunteers, is intricately involved in the community, community schools, and other partner organizations. Organic gardening principles guide production while the needs of children and community partner guide what is grown. One of the main reasons why HYG is a great model for a school/community garden is because the people who orient the organization are driven to make a real difference in the life of children. Besides a little persistence, creativity, and humor in the face of vandalism, I learned that there are certain tangible needs for a garden: water, soil, seeds, a hoophouse, and a shed with tools are essential. Love of neighbors, willingness to serve, and child-centeredness are some of the intangibles that make this garden grow.

Columbus meeting area.JPG← Outdoor Classroom Space is crucial.



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Chadwick Arboretum & Learning Gardens

Enlightened, inspired, yet wilting, we finished our garden tour at Ohio State University’s own garden learning center. The focus of this final visit was the rooftop garden. Trish and Nancy were our educators and guides for this experience. It was great to hear about the process of planning and fundraising for a rooftop garden. We also learned about the obvious and not-so-obvious benefits of green roofs. While green roofs tend to be somewhat of a fad and seemingly cost prohibitive in the United States, the reality is that they more than pay for themselves over the lifetime of the structure in heating and replacement costs. AND, they are fun and attractive to the eye. While green roofs are becoming part of the present in countries like France, the future may look a little less green here in the US. But as Bob Dylan puts it, the times, they are a changin’. In Cincinnati, of all places, Rothenberg Academy has installed a rooftop garden. I have yet to visit, but perhaps that will be part of my next school garden tour during the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference that will hit the Queen City in the Spring. Hope to see you there.