School gardening in Alaska, with less than four months of frost-free temperatures, can be a challenge. ABG in partnership with the Anchorage School District’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (21st CCLC) has taken a new approach to gardening with youth. With snow falling outside and temperatures dropping below zero, nearly 600 youth in eight 21st CCLC after-school programs are planting seeds, watering and tasting fresh vegetables and herbs.
The goal of this partnership is to teach students about science, ecological stewardship, nutrition and the food system experientially by growing plants indoors throughout the school year. With indoor lighting units, containers and soil, students are growing greens and herbs from seed to plate.
During the 2013-2014 school year over 300 students each engaged in 8 hours of hand-on gardening and science lessons with Alaska Botanical Garden educators during in-school lessons and field trips to ABG. During the 2014-2015 school year, this indoor gardening project has expanded to include four additional learning centers (eight in total) and over 600 students, who will each be able to learn, dig, explore and discover through gardening! The schools involved are: Alaska Native Cultural Charter, Begich Middle, Fairview Elementary, Muldoon Elementary, North Star Elementary, Nunaka Valley Elementary, Ptarmigan Elementary, and Wonder Park Elementary.
During the 2013-2014 school year…
- Over 300 students each engaged in 8 hours of hand-on gardening and science lessons with Alaska Botanical Garden educators during in-school lessons and field trips to ABG.
- Students grew over 15 varieties of greens and herbs as well as 2-3 varieties of cherry tomatoes to take home in the spring.
- Students learned about plant growth and development, seeds, soil, roots, thinning, insects, harvesting, nutrition, food miles, Alaskan plants and trees, winter tree identification, and more during in-school lessons and field trips.
- Students learned how to grow vegetables and herbs in containers or using recycled materials in their windowsill.
- Students learned three easy ways to prepare the herbs and vegetables they grew.
- Families learned recipes and easy healthy preparations at a family night at each of the four schools.
- Students gained confidence in growing their own food and trying new herbs and vegetables.
During the 2014-2015 school year…
- Over 600 students are engaging in hands-on gardening and science lessons by growing their own produce during 21st CCLC programming.
- Students will again be growing over 15 varieties of greens and herbs and 2-3 varieties of tomatoes.
- Students will engage in six in-school lessons and one field trip to ABG. ABG staff will also attend one family night at each of the eight schools with information on how families can grow their own greens and herbs.