Use Community Gardens to Build Student Engagement

By Eric Antuna on December 10, 2009
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

The Agua Caliente Elementary School, where I work, has a "dream garden" where all students in grades K-5 have projects growing in the garden.

The Agua Caliente Elementary School, where I work, has a "dream garden" where all students in grades K-5 have projects growing in the garden. This community garden program has been "designed to connect young people with their food, and provide meaningful, hands-on food experiences and education as a step to ensure a future full of good, clean and fair food." I dedicate this week's blog to a hard working, inspirational teacher, Ms. Cathy Liss, who has spearheaded the community garden project at our school – teaching students responsibility, teamwork, cooperation and school pride. 


Students learn how to care for a garden and the ecology behind it. Ms. Liss has worked closely with Slow Food Desert Cities, an organization dedicated to helping "people rediscover the joys of eating and understand the importance of caring where their food comes from."

The school garden project teaches students about where food comes from and about making healthy food choices. Students in all grades are scheduled to take care of a grade-level bed of seasonal fruits or vegetables, such as carrots, lettuces, sunflowers, pumpkins. This project has inspired many students to work in the garden beds, as well as, pull in community and parental resources to build a lasting school-community relationship. If you're considering starting a community garden in your school, I highly recommend it!  

In addition to the community garden, Ms. Liss has also partnered with Hidden Harvest, a non profit organization in the Coachella Valley that "rescues" produce from the local farms and redistributes them to the low-income families around the valley. Our school is host to a local community fruit and vegetable "give-away" on a seasonal basis.  

Ready to start your own garden? Use these resources below to get ideas!

Please share any ideas you have about starting a garden and how it helps engage your students in hands-on learning!

Thanks for reading!




The Extension Service at your local land-grant university has great resources for community gardening, particularly the Junior Master Gardener's program. And it's FREE!!


Thanks for the comment and the tip!


Eric! This is great...I love seeing how other programs are integrating sustainability and eco-conscious tools in their classrooms. We have a portable herb garden and are building a native planter box in the back of the rec center right now...exciting! It is amazing how much these projects impact the kids - and I love that it's in the desert!!


Thanks for the great comment! I really appreciate it! Would you be so kind as you email me some photos so we can share with others on I'd love to share with others!

Good Luck! -Eric

bless your heart! I love community gardens at elementary school and especially your 'dream garden'. When we had one, I spent 15-35 minutes a week with the second graders. We ate the food in class!

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