Grow Pittsburgh’s School Garden Programs integrate garden and cooking activities into the regular classroom curriculum. We teach students to grow, cook and eat fresh food while celebrating the cultures and experiences of our students and our city. Our work in schools across the region is driven by the understanding that experiential inquiry-based learning has significant positive effects on the development of a child, including the following:
Promoting Healthy Lifestyles
Countless studies have shown a significant increase in childhood obesity, which leads to diabetes and heart disease, along with a slew of other health issues, later in life. Recent projections show that in Pennsylvania, 57 percent of residents will be obese by the year 2030. Grow Pittsburgh is committed to addressing this issue by promoting healthy eating habits and physical activity in a school environment. When a child is intimately involved in the growing of a vegetable from seed to harvest, they are far more likely to eat that vegetable. We celebrate the growing, preparing and sharing of healthy food through garden activities, our winter cooking classes and community outreach events. Our garden programming also emphasizes the value and importance of physical activity. Students find great pleasure being outside and working together in a cooperative physical environment.
Enhancing Academic Achievement
Grow Pittsburgh uses the garden as an outdoor classroom where experimental, inquiry-based learning is central to programming. We find that activities such as charting the growth of a pea plant or saving tomato seeds for the following year’s planting truly engages students in learning in a meaningful and enjoyable way. In addition, all of our 72 lesson plans are aligned with the Pennsylvania State Science Standards and studies, particularly a recent synopsis by Texas A&M University, have shown that this type of garden programming significantly improves elementary school students’ achievement on standardized science exams.
Encouraging Environmental Stewardship
The school garden is a wonderful place for students to understand and care for the ecosystem in which they live. From composting and mulching with straw bales that were previously used for seating, to using rainwater irrigation systems and picking up trash in the garden, the students begin to understand their impact on the natural environment. These processes and practices encourage an environmental ethic that will guide our children toward becoming the environmental stewards of the future.
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Engaging Students In The School Community
A great sense of pride is developed among students who have worked together to grow and care for a garden. The harvest and bounty is only realized when a school community effectively works together as a team with good communication and respect. When the students are able to prepare and share a meal sourced from their garden, they receive authentic encouragement and recognition for their work in a way that is rare for such young members in our society.
Instilling A Sense Of Wonder In The Natural World
To watch a student’s pure joy and enthusiasm when they first see a sprout emerge from the ground is to witness the power of the natural world and its effect on children. From caterpillars, to butterflies, to worms and dirt, the essential elements of the garden have a way of capturing the imagination of our children and encouraging exploration, experimentation and wonder.