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Garden-Based Learning

Welcome to Lapham Garden & Outdoor Classroom's Webpage!
Thank you for your interest in our outdoor classroom and community garden! There are three ways to stay in the loop about what's new and upcoming and how you can support Lapham's Gardener-in-Residence program:

Please email our Gardener-in-Residence with questions and suggestions or because you want to contribute to the learning and fun: laphamgardener "at"

Lapham's "Adopt-the-Garden-for-a-Week" Summer Program
Our summer maintenance program offers Lapham families and community members the opportunity to harvest food to take home in exchange for performing basic gardening tasks.

How does it work?
Participants choose a one-week period during the summer months to commit to volunteering 2-6 hours of time.

Who is eligible to participate?
Families who have children at Lapham and Marquette schools have first priority during Early-Bird Registration which ends on May 31st. As of June 1st, registration opens to the greater community.

Why participate?
Lapham's Gardener-in-Residence Program provides garden-based learning opportunities to Lapham students during the spring and fall seasons of the school year (learn more below) and donates excess produce to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center food pantry. You personally benefit by taking home organically grown, delicious food to enjoy! Without volunteer help for routine summer maintenance, Lapham's garden-based learning program and the community benefits it generates are not sustainable.

Sign up process...
Our program runs mid-June through August. Lapham Garden needs you any week you are available so choose any week Monday–Sunday from mid-June through the end of August that works with your schedule and email Kate Brunner at katebrunner1 "at" to sign up.

Orientation and training...
After you have successfully signed up for your one-week garden adoption, we will contact you to make arrangements for your orientation and training. We will set up a time to meet with you to show you how to access the tools you need and explain how you will know what kind of tasks will need to be done that week as well as what food will be ready for you to harvest. Thank you!

Gardener-in-Residence 2016 Year-end Report
In 2016, all classrooms (Early Childhood, 4K and K-2) visited the garden totaling approximately 1,841 student visits! 55 volunteers gave more than 132.5 work hours and we donated 89.25 lbs. of food to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Food Pantry. Find the entire Lapham Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden 2016 Year-end Report here...

What do kids learn in the Outdoor Classroom?
Our kids learn plant parts, harvesting and tasting fruits and veggies, math, land stewardship through meaningful fitness, collaboration, teamwork, self-efficacy…Learn more through these photos put together for the PTG October 2016 monthly meeting.

Lapham Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden

Our garden is an outdoor classroom and community garden that strives to:

–– Encourage exercise and healthy eating through first-hand experience growing and tasting fruits and vegetables

–– Expose students to hands‐on environmental education opportunities including sustainable living and conservation techniques

–– Connect students to the natural world inspiring an appreciation, awe and respect for nature – and to have fun in the process!

–– Offer students experiential garden-based learning activities and encourage the integration of garden activities into classroom curriculum that supports Common Core State Standards wherever possible through our Gardener-in-Residence Program

–– Build community within our school by offering spring and fall community work days, picnics and potlucks; hosting special school events like open houses; inviting our after school program to utilize the garden; and giving Lapham-Marquette families priority in our "Adopt-the-Garden-for-a-Week" summer program

–– Build community beyond our school's walls by designing a garden that offers wheelchair and stroller accessibility; inviting summer school and scout programs to utilize the garden; inviting our neighbors to participate in our "Adopt-the-Garden-for-a-Week" summer program; growing food and donating it to neighborhood food pantries; and providing a relaxing, fun, educational garden for people of all ages and mobilities to enjoy!

How do we accomplish these goals?
  • Encourage exercise and healthy eating through first-hand experience growing and tasting fruits and vegetables. 
    • Students learn to plant, maintain and harvest food. Garden activities are integrated with REAP food tasting and food system activities. Our gardener-in-residence coordinates fun, food tasting activities, such as allowing the children to pick fruits and vegetables to assemble a spring roll to eat as a snack.
  • Expose students to hands‐on environmental education opportunities including sustainable living and conservation. 
    • Utilizing the Lapham garden, the gardener‐in‐residence provides experiential learning opportunities designed to teach children about where their food comes from and how to grow it using sustainable methods such as vermiculture (worm bins) and composting. We measure our success by increasing the number of classroom and individual student visits each year. We accomplish this by offering high quality garden-related activities during convenient times for teachers, students and families. Examples of sustainable activities are learning how to assemble a worm bin and raking leaves from school grounds to create leaf mulch compostIn 2012-2013 Lapham participated in Sustain Dane’s MPower Schools Champions Program, learning how to reduce Lapham’s environmental impact through a lunchroom composting and recycling initiative. We are continuing that work in 2013-2014 as we expand Lapham's Community Garden into a true Outdoor Classroom! We invite you to learn more about Lapham's Green Team.
  • Connect students to the natural world inspiring an appreciation and respect for nature. 
    • It is the hope and intent that all of our garden activities encourage appreciation and respect for nature. We strive to accomplish this by making the garden accessible during times other than classroom times. For example, students are allowed to visit the garden during recess when the gardener-in-residence is present. We also offer a variety of garden events throughout the school year including a Fall Celebration Potluck and Garden Work Days in the spring and fall.
  • Encourage the integration of garden activities into classroom curriculum, particularly observation and inquiry opportunities which form a foundation for lifelong love of science.
    • Our gardener-in-residence coordinates and integrates garden activities into classroom curriculum by identifying and developing age‐appropriate gardening curriculum meeting K‐5 FOSS (DPI) standards and encourages teachers to incorporate garden curriculum into their instructional design.
  • Build community by inviting other programs housed in Lapham's building and otherwise related to Lapham to participate in Lapham's school garden. 
    • AERO, an alternative high school program participates in composting activities. Red Caboose Day Care participates in summer garden-related and maintenance activities.  Marquette Elementary School families also enjoy family-related events such as our Fall Potluck Celebration and Garden Work Days. Neighbors of Lapham are welcome to use the reading circle and to volunteer their time in maintenance activities.
2016 Gardener-in-Residence Year-end Report
In 2016, all classrooms (Early Childhood, 4K and K-2) visited the garden totaling approximately 1,841 student visits! 55 volunteers gave more than 132.5 work hours and we donated 89.25 lbs. of food to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Food Pantry. Find the entire Lapham Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden 2016 Year-end Report here...

2015 Gardener-in-Residence Year-end Report
In 2015, 22 classrooms visited the garden at least once, many up to three times! We had 121 total classroom visits including Early Childhood, 4K and K-2. And for the second year in a row, Mrs. Kimberly Wilson, Lapham’s art teacher, brought out students to "draw what they saw". Red Caboose also enjoyed our Outdoor Classroom during after school and summer school programming in record levels. Find the entire Lapham Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden 2015 Year-end Report here...

Gardener-in-Residence Year-end Report
In 2014, 17 classrooms visited the garden at least once, many up to three times! We had 35 more classroom visits than last year and we expanded to include not only K-2 but Early Childhood, 4K, high school, summer school and Red Caboose after school visits. Mrs. Kimberly Wilson, Lapham’s art teacher, brought all K-2 students to the garden to "draw what they saw" in our new Outdoor Classroom and Mrs. Jean Lange, Lapham's gym teacher brought students to the garden to woodchip during the spring time gym class. Read the entire Lapham Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden 2014 Report here...

2013 Gardener-in-Residence Year-end Report
In 2013, 15 classrooms visited the garden at least once! Classroom visits amounted to over 1550 student visits to the garden! During the summer months, we donated more than 150 lbs. of food to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center! Other highlights included our first "All School Harvest Day" where 271 Lapham students visited the garden and harvested 40.5 pounds of food (not including pumpkins and festival squashes). Also, Mrs. Kimberly Wilson, Lapham’s art teacher, led all the second graders in a garden drawing activity in the garden. Two AERO high school classes visited the garden in the spring to plant seedlings and Red Caboose’s After School Program visited the garden a few times in the fall. Read the entire Lapham Elementary 2013 Garden Report here...

Garden & Green Team Objectives
  • Continue to employ a Gardener-in-Residence to guarantee the sustainability of our program
  • Maintain classroom participation and provide teachers the support they need to lead classroom visits
  • Increase number of garden volunteers (school and community)
  • Increase number of Garden & Green Team Committee members

How to Get Involved
There are many ways to contribute, whether you have a few hours to spare or you would like to make a longer-term commitment:

  • Volunteer in the garden (especially during the summer) to help with planting, weeding, watering and harvesting
  • Volunteer in the garden during classroom visits in late Spring and early Fall
  • Lead, participate or donate to a garden fundraiser
  • Research, write and apply for grants

Attend Garden Meetings & Events
The Garden & Green Team meets approximately every one-two months to discuss Lapham's Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden programming. All Lapham families, staff and community members are welcome to attend. Meetings are announced through the Lapham Garden & Green Team Facebook PagePTG Facebook Page and the PTG Email List

80+ volunteers participated in our Outdoor Classroom Build Out Day 
on Sunday, June 1st, 2014. We are so grateful to all of you!

Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program
In the summer of 2013 we learned that Lapham was one of five schools selected to participate in the 2013–2014 Growing Outdoor Classrooms Program through a competitive grant process! "It’s part of an innovative program led by the GROW Coalition and Sustain Dane to promote outdoor learning and sustainability through school gardens and other natural spaces. Called Growing Outdoor Classrooms, the program aims to incorporate garden-based learning into K-8 curricula in Dane County schools.

“This program is holistic and innovative in its approach to community-supported curriculum development around sustainability,” says Julie Jarvis, Sustain Dane Director of Sustainable Schools Initiatives. Jarvis notes that a growing number of schools across the nation are recognizing the educational and health benefits of incorporating sustainability into their curriculum and operations. Outdoor classrooms, whether a vegetable garden, a rain garden, a woodland or a prairie, are a cornerstone of that effort, supporting and engaging students, especially those facing academic challenges."  Read the full article here...

Lapham's Garden & Green Team  lead this initiative to expand Lapham's Garden into a true outdoor classroom. It was a collaborative process – all Lapham students, staff and families had many opportunities to contribute ideas and participate to ensure our new outdoor classroom reflected our values, dreams and goals.

Learn more about Lapham's Green Team...

Check out our photos from this extraordinary day when we transformed our garden into a true Outdoor Classroom!

So many families, staff and community members come together to cultivate

our outstanding Outdoor Classroom

What is experiential, garden-based learning?
Here are some examples of how innovative teachers at Lapham have incorporated the garden into the curriculum, taught by former (beloved and missed) Lapham teachers, Ken Swift and Mark Krichner. Check out the links on the right-hand side of the page for more information.

Learn how an innovative teacher at Lapham integrated hands-on, garden-based learning opportunities into his 1st grade classroom – in the middle of winter!

"This project shows the result of students learning through a locally-focused service learning project. During this year, I was able to focus on teaching in ways that students’ learning is inquiry based and connected with place. I was able to use the school garden as an example of local and natural resources to teach the students in this class. Students greatly enjoyed their time in the garden. They were focused when collecting data for science and engaged when gardening. We studied phenology. During the fall, students observed their natural environment with a digital camera to document ecological change. This gave them a concrete/visual understanding of the change. During the spring, students observed their natural environment and reported ecological changes they saw to the class. We recorded these changes on our classroom wall through words and drawings to create a phenology display and a phenology calendar. Toward the end of the year, our class created a field guide to our school as a service learning project and as a capstone to the year’s nature study. Students chose a project of interest and reported on local animals and plants, interviewed adults who help with our school garden, drew maps, described our phenology findings, shared a history of our school, wrote music, summarized classroom nature projects, and wrote poetry. This locally-focused field guide service learning project was shared with the school, families, and the local community on a website."

Eco-Critters, by Mark Richner & Lapham 2nd Graders
"For the Eco-Critters Project, students observed and collected data in the Lapham Garden, which led to a study of “form and function.” As a capstone to the project, students created an "eco-critter" out of craft supplies. Each form of their critter had to fit its function in the chosen ecosystem. Students then wrote an expository essay describing their critter. We created an exhibit to share the Eco-Critters project at the library in the UW Teacher Education Building."

Poetry, by Mark Richner & Lapham 2nd Graders
"Our poetry project each December had a local and natural focus. The language of poetry was similar to the language we used when collecting data in the Lapham Garden. Kids wrote with the “eye of the scientist” and the “heart of the artist” as they collected observational data, pulling on all of those “form and function” words – texture, shape, size, color, aroma. Students experienced the coming of winter by writing poetic images while outside on the school lawn prior to, during, and after snowstorms. To connect further with our local urban environment, students wrote poetic images while sitting along East Washington Avenue, a busy road adjacent our school. These two local, natural and built settings brought a sense of nature and place to our poetry, which was later typed by students in the computer lab and illustrated for a classroom anthology. These local experiences gave students richer images in their writing and allowed for greater student engagement than in my prior experiences with poetry in the classroom."

Madison Area Master Gardeners Association Grant, 1999

Wisconsin Elementary and Middle Level Science Teachers Association Grant Program, 1999

Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, 1999

Late autumn – a great time for costume design in the garden!

Classroom visits include exploring the worm bin – always a favorite!

Touching unfamiliar plants, dirt and worms is a first time experience
for some students (though not this little dynamo!)

Tasting sweet peppers during a classroom visit – yum!

Weighing the peppers the students harvested on the All School Harvest Day – 
it's always fun to guess who much things weigh and discover the results

Special thanks to our core supporters, 
present and past:
Lapham Gardeners-in-Residence: Megan McCrumb, Osha Waterdu, Kim Mayer, Erin Moriearty, Jessica Simanek, Leia Young, Micah Hann and Jim Hansen

Faculty: Principal TK, Mrs. Belz, Mrs. Beery, Mrs. Lorge, Mr. Richner and Mr. Swift

AERO Alternative High School Teacher: Brian Counselman

Lapham Parents and Parent Alumni: Kate Brunner, 
Stephanie Steigerwaldt, Natasha Akulenko, Dana Hoffman, Cassidy Kilpatrick, David Panofsky, Shannon Sparks, Sharon Lezberg and Jim Hansen

Community: Karen Klekamp

Our First Gardener-in-Residence: Jim Hansen

Our Founder: Ken Swift

Lapham-Marquette Parent Teacher Group
Thank you for understanding how important experiential, outdoor leaning opportunities are for our students and recognizing how Lapham's Community Garden & Outdoor Classroom uniquely supports PTG's core values and goals, as well as enriches and serves our greater community. Your funding and support are essential to our continued success! 

Our Greater Community
Lapham's Outdoor Classroom is only sustainable as a symbiotic relationship with our greater community. We thank you all for participating for whatever reasons are most meaningful to you, whether it be the pure joy and pleasure of gardening and interacting with nature, to the health benefits of gardening, to assisting our neighbors who face food insecurity and beyond. There are so many reasons to get involved and we are simply grateful to all of you who do! Please check out our 
ever-growing list of supporters and thank them when you next have the pleasure to cross their path.

Lapham Garden Gate

Welcome to our garden...

Megan McCrumb, Gardener-in-Residence 
Spring 2017 – Fall 2018

Osha Waterdu, Gardener-in-Residence 
Spring 2017

Kim Mayer, Gardener-in-Residence
Fall 2016

Erin Moriearty, Gardener-in-Residence
Fall 2015 – Summer 2016

Jessica Simanek, Gardener-in-Residence
Spring & Summer 2015

Leia Young, Gardener-in-Residence
Spring 2013 
– Fall 2014

Lapham Garden Leaders 2012

Lapham's 2012 Garden Heroes:
Micah Hahn, Gardener-in-Residence
Ken Swift, Lapham Founding Member
Nathan Larson, Education Director, Community GroundWorks

Lapham's 2009-2011 Garden Hero:
Jim Hansen, Gardener-in-Residence

Lapham Garden's Community Partners

Atwood Farm

The garden are welcome anytime...

Lapham Garden

Investigating the innards of a snake gourd

Garden-Based Learning

School Composting Resources

Black-eyed Susans and Asters

Explorations of perspective and opportunities
for transformation...

Ode to the Sunflower!

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense

of wonder, 

he needs the companionship

of at least one adult who can

share it,

rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, 

and mystery of the world we live in.” 

― Rachel Carson