School Garden Project Action Plan

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University of South Florida Healthy Schools ProjectThe iNSiGHT Cooperative, a Division of Tait Martin EnterprisesInc.School Garden ProjectAction PlanMay 2010

IntroductionThis action plan is a culmination of the Florida Department of Education Fruit andVegetable School Garden Project 2009-2010 work plan (available at the end ofthis document) and the Partnership Meeting held on April 23, 2010. It bringstogether ideas from statewide stakeholders and best practices from thosealready doing school garden programs.The action plan will focus on tasks at both the state and local level. It should beseen as a “living” document – one that can be added to as the program grows oradapted to individual school systems. Primarily, the action plan is a starting pointfor dialogue and a tool for stakeholders to envision gardening programs in theirschools and communities.From a state perspective, the Office of Healthy Schools and Food and NutritionManagement has made significant headway in meeting its year one program goal:The State Education Agency (SEA) will develop a state-level structurethat supports the implementation of Fruit and Vegetable School Gardensas part of the Coordinated School Health (CSH) model.Although noteworthy progress has been made, there is still much to do. Duringthe Partner Meeting, the participants were asked, “In your opinion, what is themost important issue in implementing a school garden program?” They wereallowed to anonymously text their answers. The following is a list of theresponses to this question:Value (showing why the program is valuable)Teacher supportSustained leadershipMoneyTime!Empower children with sustainable educationSustainabilityAdministrative supportResources!

This action plan will seek to address these issues. The following pages willspecifically focus on seven important areas brought up during the PartnerMeeting and in previous conversations with program staff. The seven areas ofthe plan are:Resource AvailabilityEducational ImpactPartnership OpportunitiesAdvocacy ChannelsTimelinesProgram SustainabilityEvaluation ExpectationsEach section will begin with a brief description of the issue and move to “actionitems” - accomplishable tasks for those either at the state or local level. Again,the reader should understand that all “action items” may not translate to theirindividual programs or school districts. A goal of this plan is to inspire specifictasks that can be developed to meet their individual local needs.Resource AvailabilityResource availability was a common thread throughout the planning meeting. Itis a reality that the default thought for most educators and administrators is tothink of “dollars and staff” when presented with a new program idea. But whatother resources are available to make gardening programs in schools a reality?The meeting stakeholders were asked the question, “What resources are you"connected" to?” They anonymously answered the following:Interested students, administrators, and parentsKnowledgeAdministrative supportParent and teacher supportHelp from master gardeners from extensionCommunity partnersNetwork of state lands and scientistsEPA station and extension personnelSupport from multiple departments within the agencyGardening knowledge and materials

They were then asked, “What resources do you want or need?” Participantsanonymously answered the following:Space and materials to gardenCurriculum, gardening added as a "specials" classStaff time to follow up with and train teachersRachael Ray to come cook!Integrate into urban areas and on-site teaching opportunitiesTeaching portable kitchenMore cohesive approach so efforts are not duplicatedBe able to have watering systems to help keep gardens going, especiallyon school breaksTeaching kitchenMoney; more fundingThese answers give a good starting point to look at action items for resources.While money and time may not be abundant to start a school gardeningprogram, one plus that educators have on their side is the ability to beresourceful. As one teacher put it during the planning meeting:“Our gardening program works because we integrate into what wealready do. And, we’re organic because we cannot afford pesticides orstore bought fertilizers.”Action Items:Think beyond dollars – determine what resources specifically are neededto implement a school gardening program in your area.On the state level, give guidelines on the resources necessary to begin atypical school garden program. Realize that minimal resources will likelyencourage more people to participate.Develop a clearinghouse of current school gardening resources that iseasy to get to – bring the information to the educators. Even if theinformation is “on the web,” create a page where all links are in one spot.Develop a network of master “teacher” gardeners (people who are doingthis already) to give advice to others wanting to do gardening in schools.This could also be a speakers’ bureau for the program.Collect information from all grant outlets and put them in one spot. Inaddition, adopt common language that can be used in the grant proposals.

To spur easy adoption of school gardening programs, encourage teachersto integrate other programs that are already out there – for example“Seed to Soup” – until they are ready to create their own program.Increase the number of school gardening starter kits given to schools.Look for retail and community sponsors to defer costs:o Wal-Marto Targeto Loweso Home Depoto Winter Park Health Foundationo Florida Farm Bureauo Florida Ag in the ClassroomFlorida Department of Education Fruit and Vegetable School Garden Project2009-2010 work plan action items:Objective 2, Activity 2: By June 30, 2010 identify fruit and vegetable schoolgarden grant funding opportunities.Objective 2, Activity 3: By June 30, 2010 apply for at least two state levelschool gardening grants.Objective 2, Activity 4: By June 30, 2010 adapt the existing Building aHealthy School Success Story database to include school garden bestpractices.Educational ImpactThe main question here is, “How does gardening in schools connect withstudent learning?” The meeting participants were in agreement that schoolgardens have to be directly linked to learning. As one teacher put it:“If you think you are going to have a garden without curriculumintegration, don’t waste your time.”They key is to find links that show a correlation between school garden andlearning, parental involvement, increased test scores and decreased disciplinaryproblems – all of which were cited as benefits of school gardening during themeeting.

Action Items:Directly connect school gardening with Next Generation Sunshine StateStandards. Some of the teachers in attendance at the Planning Meetingmentioned they had already done this. State representatives shouldcompile these and make them available to teachers and administrators.Create an FCAT study guide based on gardening principles. Again, someteachers mentioned that this was being done on the classroom level, butnot statewide.Create a searchable database of classroom exercises that teachers coulduse when implementing school gardens in their classes.Create an educators’ chat room/Facebook page where teachers couldexchange ideas about what is working in the classroom.Develop a mentorship program in the counties for teachers who want toincorporate school gardening in their curriculum.Coordinate a statewide contest for the most unique ideas that linkgardening to various curriculum areas – for example, reading, physics,match, etc.Partnership OpportunitiesOne of the consistent threads that linked all of the educators utilizing schoolgardens was their ability to partner with other – whether in their schools orcommunity. The main question here is, “Who do we need to bring to the tableto implement school gardening in Florida?” Meeting participants listed thefollowing as important partners in developing a statewide gardening program:ParentsBusinesses in each school zoneNutritionistsThe person who adds it the curriculum as a "special" (who is that personor people)City and county elected officialsFFA4-HFlorida Farm BureauGrocery storesResearchersLocal home and garden storesCommunity organizationsPTA/PTO

National garden association and Rodale organic gardenLocal farmersSuperintendents and school boardsThis list is far from being complete. Educators should look locally to see whospecifically they could bring to the table to help implement their school gardens.Action Items:Develop a document that outlines the expectations of being a partner –What will partnering entail? This can be used to recruit potential partnersat the state and local level.Develop a database of partners on the state level of current andprospective program partners.Contact state government organizations with local branches to help withthe program. Specifically, reach out to the Water Management Districts,Department of Environmental Protection and the Institute for Food andAgricultural Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida.Locally, develop a list of potential partners in the school’s area. Be sure toinclude:o Retail organizations – Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot andlocal garden and feed storeso Community people – farmers, retirees, parentso Teachers in the school to collaborate witho Auxiliary personnel at school – janitors, cafeteria workersAdvocacy ChannelsIn order to plant school gardening in the minds of decision-makers and thestudent curriculum, advocates have to begin by telling why and how gardeningcan make an impact.Participants were asked, “What else do we need to be doing when it comes toschool gardening?” They anonymously answered:This movement needs a strong public imageSpeakers bureau for garden education and teacher educationConnect environmental education to gardeningBoard of education updates on what is going on in school gardens in thedistrictShow pictures - this can help other schools see what can be doneConcentrated PR effort

Educate and inform teachersCreate a fun, easy, popular, realistic, inspiring mission statement.Perhaps along with a slogan and have some public service ads on TVGarden open house for the communityTraining program for teachersLeadership training conferenceSolidify broad partnerships and define goalsNPR coverageCommunity garden blog in creative loafingMedia attentionElevator speechIt is evident that stakeholders are passionate about school gardening. The key foradvocacy success will be to ensure everyone is delivering the same message.Action Items:Construct an “elevator speech” about school gardening. This is a short,compelling statement about why it is important.Develop a statewide campaign for school gardening. Bring in partners atthe state and local level to help build the brand and campaigncomponents.Partner with your School Board Community Affairs Departments – they arealways looking to share stories of academic and school success with themedia. In addition, they are also the main contacts with your local media.Do not contact the press without contacting Community Affairs first.Document your local gardening programs with pictures, journals andvideos. Post these to a website and share the link. Be sure to get parentalpermission before sharing any photos of children.Use a speakers’ bureau of master “teacher” gardeners (people who aredoing this already) to present to local community groups.Develop retail partnerships and highlight the garden program in theirstores.Give verbal “progress reports” to local school boards highlighting thesuccesses of the program.

Florida Department of Education Fruit and Vegetable School Garden Project2009-2010 work plan action items:Objective 2, Activity 5: By June 30, 2010 present at least five fruit andvegetable school garden promotional sessions at state and regionalconferences and workshops.TimelinesThe initial timeline to have a gardening program in every school within threeyears is very doable. The key to this will be to determine what a “schoolgardening program” entails.Action Items:Create a document that shows how easy it is to develop a gardeningprogram. Make it as easy as possible for any teacher to incorporate thisinto his/her curriculum.Work with local school personnel to determine a timeline that works foreach school. This could be accomplished by gardening mentors or stateeducation staff.Program SustainabilityThe main question regarding sustainability is, “How do we keep the schoolgardening program going once it’s started?” This sentiment was seen as a majorconcern with the stakeholders. Many thought that funding and partnershipswere the answer to the sustainability question. If this is the case, schoolgardening professionals should focus much of their time in these two areas.Action Items:Ensure partnerships at the state and local level. Use them for funding andtechnical assistance.On the local level, determine how the garden will be sustained whenschool is not in session. Ideas that surfaced during the planning meetingwere to utilize retirees, year-round school personnel, and parentvolunteers.Develop a plan to sustain your garden with little to no funding. This willallow you to continue the program even if financial resources are notavailable.

Develop a plan to sell your produce to teachers and parents in order tocreate an income.On the state level, get a sponsor that will supply materials to local schoolsin exchange for publicity – candidates include seed companies, largeretailers, commercial farms, etc.Evaluation ExpectationsThe stakeholders cited “evaluation” as a key need in the implementation of thisprogram. As one participant stated, “What gets measured, gets noticed.”To date, there is not a standardized evaluation tool for school gardeningprograms. In fact, there is not a standard definition of what constitutes a schoolgardening program. It is strongly suggested that as the program grows at thestate level, a standardized evaluation component be added to the program tasks.Action Items:Officially define, from a state level, what encompasses a “school garden.”Establish a baseline of school gardening by determining the number ofschools who have a gardening program based on the state definition.Create a standardized evaluation matrix from the state level to make sureeveryone is measuring common items. This will not only make it easier foreducators to know what exactly needs to be evaluated, it will allow thestate to get statewide and regional data.Determine a way to easily collect qualitative and quantitative data. Makethe data available for participants to use in grant requests and fundingopportunities. Include pictures, stories and “number” data.Highlight the program yearly by producing a data rich annual report ofFlorida’s school gardens and present it to the governor, statesuperintendent and county superintendents.Develop a statewide award for school gardening that rewards schools anddistricts based on the following:o Scope of the program;o Cost effectiveness of the program;o Percentage of teachers utilizing the program in the schools; ando Number of partnerships

ConclusionIn closing, the key to a successful program will be a balance of statewide supportand local participation. As stated in the Planning Meeting, most behavior can bechanged by making something “fun, easy and popular” – school gardening is noexception.Fun:Highlight ways that students and teachers can enjoy the learning processthrough gardening.Focus both on the fun for the teacher and the student.Easy:Provide materials to teachers to show exactly how the incorporation ofschool gardening can enhance learning while still meeting the demands ofthe curriculum and standardized tests.Emphasize that school gardening can be done by educators of any subjectand with little resources.Popular:Emphasize those educators and school systems that are already doing this.Show their successes – test score increases, disciplinary decreases,enjoyment of teaching, etc.Spotlight teachers who have incorporated school gardening into theircurriculum on statewide media like program brochures and websites.Make school gardening “trendy” by underscoring the impact it has had onthe people who are doing it.Good luck with this important work.

Florida Department of Education Fruit and Vegetable School Garden ProjectOffice of Healthy Schools and Food and Nutrition ManagementWork Plan 2009-20101 Year Goal: The State Education Agency (SEA) will develop a state-level structurethat supports the implementation of Fruit and Vegetable School Gardens as partof the Coordinated School Health (CSH) model.Objective 1: By September 30, the Program Coordinator will have established apartnership with at least five state agencies or organizations to build capacity todevelop fruit and vegetable school gardens.Activity 1: By June 30, 2009 implement and analyze fruit and vegetableschool garden baseline survey. (Completed)Activity 2: By July 30, 2009 identify potential partners and determine levelof commitment and resources available to support school gardens.(Completed)Activity 3: By August 30, 2009 bring partners together to develop apromotion and sustainability strategic plan. (Completed)Activity 4: By September 30, 2009 develop a fruit and vegetable schoolgarden specific web page housed under both FLDOE Office of HealthySchools and FLDOE Food and Nutrition Management site (Completed)Activity 5: By September 30, 2009 develop a schedule of fruit andvegetable school garden monthly promotions for the school year.(Completed)Objective 2: By June 30, 2010, the Program Coordinator will have established apartnership with at least five state agencies and/or organizations to buildcapacity to sustain vegetable and fruit school gardens.Activity 1: By December 30, 2009 correlate fruit and vegetable schoolgarden concepts to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards.(Completed)Activity 2: By June 30, 2010 identify fruit and vegetable school gardengrant funding opportunities. (Completed)Activity 3: By June 30, 2010 apply for at least two state level schoolgardening grants.Activity 4: By June 30, 2010 adapt the existing Building a Healthy SchoolSuccess Story database to include school garden best practices.Activity 5: By June 30, 2010 present at least five fruit and vegetable schoolgarden promotional sessions at state and regional conferences andworkshops. (Completed 3 out of 5)

Dr. Tait Martin, Meeting Facilitator and Action Plan AuthorDr. Tait Martin is the president and CEO of The iNSiGHT Cooperative, a nationalnetwork of researchers and industry experts that helps clients focus theiroutreach messages, build stronger relationships and develop programs thatbetter define the way they reach the people who matter to them. In addition,Tait is a speaker for CAMPUSPEAK, the nation’s premier agency for collegespeakers, and an Affiliate Professor of Social Marketing and Research in theDepartment of Family and Community Health at the University of South Florida.A winner of some of the industry’s most prestigious awards (including theEmmy , Silver Anvil and Gold Addy ), Tait ‘s seventeen years as a research,communication and marketing professional have included stints as vice presidentof the national social marketing and advertising firm, Salter Mitchell; facultymember at four top-tier higher education institutions; communication directorfor one of the largest United Way organizations in Louisiana; spokesperson for amajor state government agency in Florida; marketing consultant to severalindustry and professional organizations; and a morning radio talk show host.Widely cited in both academic and applied research circles, Tait holds a Ph.D. inCommunication Theory and Research (emphasis in persuasion and cognitiveprocessing) from Florida State University, as well as a Masters in Organizationaland Interpersonal Communication from the University of Louisiana. Hisundergraduate degree in public relations is from Northwestern State University.Tait is ofte

It is evident that stakeholders are passionate about school gardening. The key for advocacy success will be to ensure everyone is delivering the same message. Action Items: onstruct an “elevator speech” about school gardening. This is a short, compelling statement about why it is important. Develop a statewide campaign for school gardening.

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