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Youth Grow: Expanding School Garden Support Globally

in our own words youth grow

Did you know that while Youth Grow is at capacity with the number of schools we can work with directly, as the regional education hub of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, Growing Gardens is able to extend support to school garden programs in other forms as well.


School Garden Coordinator Certificate

The School Garden Coordinator Certificate, a 6-week online course offered in collaboration with Oregon State University’s department of Professional and Community Education (PACE), is a way that Youth Grow hopes to use our experiences to expand the capacity of all schools to create long-lasting school garden program built on a foundation of broad community involvement and support. All schools deserve thriving gardens, and this training is accessible to anyone anywhere in the world, connecting teachers and administrators with skills and resources they can bring back to their communities to start and maintain school gardens.

Growing Gardens Educators and School Garden Coordinators have pooled their expertise to design a curriculum that allows people of all different learning styles, availability, and backgrounds to fully engage in the course and leave with practical skills and excitement. They have also brought in guest speakers from Oregon State University, Oregon Department of Education, Portland Public Schools, Grow Portland, and FoodCorps.

Before COVID-19, the training was a 5-day course offered in person. Now, it is completely online and largely asynchronous, offered three times per year. Tuition totals $300, but each time the course is offered, ten participant spots are reserved for scholarship awardees for whom $275 of the $300 is covered. To apply for a scholarship, you can fill out the online form here, and if not selected, the application rolls over to be included in the applicant pool for one year.

Participants receive online video, audio, and print materials each week to complete asynchronously, including demonstration lessons, an action plan template, checklists, and resources. These materials are intended to take 1-2 hours per week. 

There is an optional weekly 1-hour synchronous discussion group on Google Meet, facilitated by Growing Gardens educators, and a discussion board for those unable to attend the meeting. Growing Gardens hopes that educators take the course as an opportunity to build relationships with one another as well and encourage participants to share activities and experiences with each other throughout the course.

The training is geared both towards those who have experience with garden-based education and those who are entirely new to the field, and aims to equip participants with the skills to both start a school garden from the ground up or to enhance programming and maintenance of an existing garden. While the course focuses on elementary schools and youth programs, it can be adapted to fit the needs of those who work with middle or high-school-aged students.

Past participants have expressed a desire to choose their own pathway through the course, as the modules hold varying relevance for people coming from different contexts or occupying different roles in schools. In response, Youth Grow is working on adding new modules, and the course is currently being adapted to fit a choose-your-own-adventure model.


Resource Sharing

Youth Grow also makes many resources available for free to schools that are not involved in direct partnerships, to support educators in starting gardens and offering programming at existing school gardens.

One way Youth Grow does this is through free school garden consultations. There is a 45-minute virtual option where a Growing Gardens educator or program manager can answer any school garden-related questions, from teaching tips to job descriptions to sourcing. Additionally, Youth Grow offers 1-hour garden design consultations for people looking to discuss their planting plan or garden design. This can be virtual or in-person within a half-hour drive from the Growing Gardens office, and these consultations are offered once per month, prioritizing Title 1 schools, so the schedule may be several months out.

The Youth Grow afterschool garden club curriculum is open source for educators and community members looking for things to do in pre-existing gardens. You can find it here, along with other curricula such as FoodCorps and LifeLab.

Growing Gardens is lucky to have business partners who donate seeds to stock the seed library, and these seeds are available free of cost for school gardens. Availability varies by season, and extra plants are occasionally available in the spring. You can contact Youth Grow for a time to stop by the office and pick some up. Educators can also contact Shelley Grosjean ([email protected]) for Portland Nursery’s 30% discount cards for school gardens, and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District offers a monthly grant opportunity for schools on the east side of Portland.

For more information about school garden grants, job openings, regional gatherings, webinars, and more, we encourage you to join any or all of these groups:

  • Portland Farm and Garden Educators Network (local): Sign up here
  • Oregon Farm to School and school Garden Network (state-wide): Sign up here
  • School Garden Support Orgationations Network (national): Sign up here 

Growing Gardens believes that as an organization committed to justice and undoing racism, it is essential to consider our own individual mission and capacities within a larger movement. The more people from a variety of backgrounds committed to creating and sustaining healthy school gardens, the better. This means maintaining a commitment to the collective by sharing resources, funding, and opportunities, guided by the belief that we can all learn from one another. 

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