Regional Support Models

A regional support model is a program, policy or staff person(s) that supports multiple school gardens in a defined region (eg. district, city or county).

Regional support models can empower garden champions, build community, and lay the foundation for long-term sustainability. Regional support models are made up of one or more of the following type of organization:

  • Community Volunteer Based Models (Master Gardeners, Volunteers, Scouts, Community Gardens)
  • Non-profit Support Organizations
  • University / Service Learning Programs
  • School District Models
  • Policy that Supports School Gardens
  • Nutrition and Waste Management Funded Programs
The following presentation was given by Courtney Caldwell - The Living Classroom, Arden Bucklin-Sporer - San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, and John Fisher - Life Lab Science Program/UCSC CASFS at the 2010 Ecological Farming Conference workshop entitled A Garden in Every School?

Regional Support Networks


Common Challenges in Creating and Sustaining School Gardens

  • Schools have limited funding
  • Mounting a garden project is a huge task and requires community engagement
  • Summer break creates maintenance challenges. Summer break can also create programming/planning challenges.
  • Teachers have their own set of complex variables: no time, lack of interest, and little knowledge about teaching in the out of doors.
  • There are challenges in dissemination of solid curriculum that directly links to academic content
  • Networking and communications within the school community requires sophisticated outreach and community building skill. Creating a culture of “environmental solidarity” with all aspects of the school day requires planning (lunchroom composting, classroom recycling, roofwater catchment, non toxic cleaners, organic garden, etc)

    Benefits of a Regional Network

    There is power in unity!

    • Networks can get larger pools of funding (ie: parcel tax, bond funding, district wide funding). Individual schools can get parent & local support, but often not much more (there’s little evidence that foundations like to support individual school gardens for the long term)
    • Larger networks have greater political clout when they speak with one voice they can more easily attain:
      • Publicity
      • Recognition
      • District wide program development (institutionalized curriculum, etc)
    • A network develops relationships, collaborations and colleagues – which in turn strengthen the network
    • A network shares the burdens, and “recharges the well “by developing relationships
    • Landscape resources can be bundled and costs can be reduced (or free) when managed by a network (compost, mulch, soil, etc)
    • A network is resilient (more than one person)
    • A network acts like a funnel- gathering and sending information where it is most needed.
    • A network can share best practices by understanding the journey of many.  This can help to make programs more efficient/successful – less “re creating the wheel”

    Elements of Regional Networks

    What a successful network looks like & how does it operate

    • There is no "one model" of a successful support network/program
    • Networks serve their members and members are responsive/active to/in the network
    • Networks usually have a mission and defined purpose which is know among its members
    • Often these networks are acknowledged by the district which they serve (posted on district web site, proclamation/board resolutions or larger involvement such as funding, staffing, professional development)
    • Ideally these networks become a program of the district or a project of a non-profit.
    • Institutionalizing school gardens and creating a school garden culture often requires the network to support the following tasks/elements:
      • Creating the garden
      • Maintaining the garden
      • Sustaining the garden  (financially)
      • Providing professional development and curriculum to support teachers using the garden
      • An understanding of teacher/school culture and needs
      • Networking meetings, workdays, workshops, and e-communication (NING, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, email lists)

    Regional Support Organizations Across the Nation

    Urban Sprouts
    City Sprouts
    Boston Schoolyard Intiative
    Green Thumb
    Real School Gardens
    Chicago Botanical Garden
    Berkeley Unified School District
    Seatle Youth Garden Works
    CSGN Regional Chapters
    Sonoma School Garden Network
    HEAL - Half Moon Bay
    Getting, Going, Growing
    Collective Roots
    Rhode Island Group
    Gardens Project Mendocino
    Santa Barbara City College
    Mountain View
    Puget Sound
    Growing Gardens Oregon
    The Living Classroom Project
    Master Gardeners: San Diego, El Dorado, Orange County, LA - Common Ground
    Garden School Foundation
    South Carolina Group
    Food For Thought
    UCCE Alameda County
    Project EAT
    Santa Clara Unified School District
    Petaluma City School District
    Growing Great
    Other School Garden Support Organizations (not defined to one region). This list is far from complete:
    CA Women for Agriculture
    Learning Through Landscapes (U.K.)
    Naturskolani Lund (Sweden)
    Chlidren's Landscapes (Norway)
    NGA Kids Gardening
    Life Lab
    Jr. Master Gardeners
    Cornell's GBL