Since 1973, a program run by a CFC-supported organization has promoted the creation of certified schoolyard wildlife habitats across America. These school gardens are learning laboratories and outdoor classrooms where students engage in active, hands-on learning as they design, plant and tend gardens. In the process, kids discover and connect with nature – and sometimes even with themselves.
One teacher’s experience at a middle school in Virginia is especially moving. A troubled young student was living in a homeless shelter – his mother dead, his father in jail and his sister a drug addict. He was smart but disengaged from the learning process. He would show up at school sporadically, but not participate.
The discerning teacher put him to work in the garden, where he joined her every day after school to clear weeds, plant native plants, apply mulch and more. The student had never planted anything before, and over time he became more open and communicative. They talked about his life and about his goals and future. He gradually came alive through working in the garden and started to engage with his teachers and peers. He began to excel, and went from being a failing student to earning straight A’s, all because of a caring teacher and the habitat.
This student’s story is mirrored in schools across the country. There are currently 5,100 of these schoolyard habitats, making it the single largest school gardening program in America. More than a million students and 22,000 teachers tend and enjoy these gardens in schools in every state.
There is no question that these school gardens impart lasting benefits. Research shows that humans are innately drawn to nature, and that contact with other living things has enduring positive mental health and social benefits. The organization has found that participation in these school gardens, especially for urban youth who might not otherwise be exposed to nature, has a tremendous effect on children’s connection with the earth and how they view themselves in relation to the environment.
The organization’s goal is to reach as many students as possible, to instill a curiosity and reverence for wildlife – connecting them to nature, one garden at a time. Through your generous support, they can reach that goal.