Did you know there are more than 2,000 schools in Georgia, and about 25 percent of these have school gardens? I’ve been involved with many school gardens over the years, and let me tell you that they are far more than just beautiful spaces. These gardens are true outdoor classrooms where students not only learn about science, but also history, geography, math and literature.
There are multiple schools with gardens in Liberty County, and if your children attend a school with a garden, you may be wondering how you can get involved.
If you’d like to learn how you can be an effective garden helper, read through these tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s School Garden Coordinator, Becky Griffin.
Volunteer: Meet the garden manager or head teacher on the School Garden Team and ask what the garden needs. Just like your home garden, pulling weeds is always a priority. Many corporations encourage their employees to complete group service projects. If you are associated with one of these companies, consider working with the school garden team to organize a volunteer event. This could be a huge help with big projects like spreading mulch or cleaning out old garden beds.
Donate: Schools always need supplies, and the school garden is no exception. Compost, plants and kid-sized tools are always appreciated. The garden manager can let you know your child’s school garden’s specific needs. Sometimes companies will match employee donations, which will magnify your contribution. Organizing a tool drive or plant donation event could be a great help to a new school garden.
Become a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) partner: Schools that are either pursuing or have STEM certification through their school garden, need community partners. Depending on your profession or skill set, you could be a real help here. Community partners work with schools to create student projects that are hands-on and related to STEM, like building rain barrels with water filter systems, creating computer programs or apps to manage garden yield data, or assisting high school students in creating farmers markets using school garden produce. Partners can also host field trips or provide opportunities for high school interns.
Connect with your local UGA Extension office: Extension is a very valuable resource if your garden runs into trouble with plant pests or diseases. A UGA Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent can help with topics like food safety in the garden and food preservation.
As with all volunteer opportunities, you must be sensitive to the established garden program. The school garden team or garden manager can let you know what the garden needs and how your skill set can help to meet those needs.
For inspiration, see UGA Extension’s school garden resources webpage at www.extension.uga.edu/programs-services/school-garden-resources.