When the Network for a Healthy California began developing the four-page Harvest of the Month educator newsletters in 2005, there was one element everyone agreed should be included: a section on school gardens. At the time, gardens were a relatively new find in schools; but it was apparent to all that school gardens held tremendous potential to enhance learning opportunities for students. They just made good sense!

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” – Chinese proverb

It’s well-documented that hands-on learning experiences, such as working in a garden, can be more impactful for students than traditional classroom lessons. A key strategy of Harvest of the Month is to involve students in activities where they can explore fruits and vegetables with all of their senses and a school-based garden is a great opportunity for this kind of engagement. Here are just a few ways Harvest of the Month and school gardens go hand-in-hand:

1. Connect to Core Curriculum

With Harvest of the Month and a school garden, it’s easy to link to core curriculum standards like science and health education. A school garden is a perfect setting for introducing students to the parts of the plant; and the Harvest of the Month newsletters offer a variety of Botanical Images to help demonstrate. The newsletters also feature the Nutrition Facts labels for 35 different produce items. After learning about the health benefits, students can print these labels and affix them to signs to label the different plants in the garden, which will help to re-enforce the nutrient information. When students can become engaged in these kinds of science and nutrition lessons, they are more likely to understand. This, in turn, will help them to establish healthy habits to last them a lifetime.

2. Promote Physical Activity

As many know, gardening can be hard work sometimes! Taking time out of the day for students to work in the school garden can help them reach their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Studies show that students who get more physical activity often perform better in the classroom. Harvest of the Month promotes increased physical activity as a way to help students be healthy and ready to learn.  

3. Serve Healthy Foods in the Classroom or Cafeteria

School gardens offer delicious harvests that can be used for Harvest of the Month recipes and taste tests. There’s almost nothing better for students than for them to be a part of the whole process of growing their own food to eat. Not only does it allow them to taste the “fruits” of their hard labor, but it also helps them see and understand the life cycle of food from the seed to their plate. It’s even more positive when that food can be served in the school cafeteria for the rest of the school to enjoy.

If you’re still not sold on the many benefits of school gardens, visit: www.csgn.org/research. You can also find a number of insightful research briefs at www.csgn.org/why-school-gardens.

To learn more about Harvest of the Month, visit www.harvestofthemonth.com.

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