A school garden is an innovative and powerful educational tool. It enables educators to provide their students with an understanding of the dynamics of local ecologies, nutrition, the culture and politics of food, and practical life skills not limited to horticulture.
The University of Arizona's Community and School Garden Program (CSGP), directed by School of Geography and Development (SGD) faculty member Sallie Marston, is aimed at connecting Tucson educators with university students and faculty eager to participate in the school garden movement occurring throughout the country. The CSGP matches university student interns with Tucson community organizations and schools to support the installation, development and maintenance of a garden program. Interns are trained by the Tucson Community Foodbank to become gardening support persons as well as by University of Arizona faculty to assist with lesson plan development and instruction around food, gardening, and community development.
The primary aim of the CSGP is to enable Tucson teachers to develop and sustain gardens and use them as an experiential learning tool, one that connects students to their local environments as well as to the culture, science, and politics of food. A secondary goal is to assist community groups also interested in developing gardens that will complement their food needs. Overarching these two objectives is the desire to support the development of a regional food system that is just and equitable.
Four-semester intern André L Domingues reports:
Using community gardening as a strategy toward sustainability, food security, and food justice is a growing concept in Tucson, and as an out-of-state student this program has given me the means to get involved locally and become part of this movement through the important role of empowering young people to challenge our food system. Being outside in a garden and watching food grow is already pretty exciting in itself, but doing so with astonished kindergarteners and curious 4th graders just makes it so much more meaningful, for everyone involved.