School and Community Gardens

3 youth digging in dirt of raised bed planting plants
Academic Achievement

Students gain practical, hands-on learning opportunities through gardening activities incorporated in a wide variety of disciplines, including science, social studies, math, language arts, fine arts, and nutrition. Students that participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on fifth-grade standardized science tests compared to the students who had no garden activities incorporated into the curriculum.

five children with teacher planting in raised bed gardens
Social & Emotional Health

Experimenting in the garden can offer students a place to experience delayed gratification, independence, and motivation to succeed. In a study conducted on the effects of a school garden program offered to third, fourth, and fifth-grade students in Texas, the students increased their overall life skills (teamwork, self-understanding, leadership, decision-making skills, communication skills, and volunteerism) after one year in the program.

A teacher and three of his pupils planting flowers in a raised bed in the school garden in a school in Hexham in the North East of England. They are smiling and enjoying getting their hands dirty.
Healthy Lifestyle and Nutrition

By growing fruits and vegetables, children's food attitudes and habits can change positively. They are more likely to eat vegetables they have grown themselves and share those preferences with others. While weeding, digging, and doing other manual labor projects in the school garden, students are getting exercise while learning a useful skill.

A young girl planting
Environmental Stewardship Connection with Nature

Building a connection with nature and promoting environmental stewardship in youth is crucial for the future of our world.
Through garden curriculum, students had an increased understanding of ecology, inter-connectedness with nature, and responsibility to care for the environment. These hands-on activities gave the students an opportunity to actively learn and experiment.

School and Community Gardens Learning Module

University of Illinois Extension has been considered Illinois’ go-to resource on gardening for over 100 years and we want to help you bring the garden into the schoolyard with our online School and Community Gardens Self-Paced Learning Modules.

A school garden can be many things, from a...


A school garden can be many things, from a pollinator garden, to a sensory garden, or a bulb garden. Our online learning modules focus on vegetable gardening while we take you on a journey from planning your garden, preparing your soil, planting crops, beginning to harvest. Your project will culminate in students tasting the fruits of their labor firsthand after experiencing all the steps involved in growing their own produce.

Increased demand for garden support led us to develop a self-paced online school garden course. “We offer expertise in nutrition, gardening, and food safety to help you learn the ‘ins and outs’ of teaching youth to grow their food and benefit your community.”

Our course starts with the logistics of building a garden, including getting buy-in from school administrators, maintenance staff, and parents. We have spent years developing this course to bring you resources for grants, recipes to try with your students, considerations of materials as you build a budget, and much more.

The school and community gardens self-paced course moves from planning to implementation as you learn how to build and maintain a vegetable garden. No two gardens are the same. Maybe your garden comprises containers, raised beds, or planted right in the ground. We show you how to setup your garden for success, regardless of the site or materials you choose.

No garden is without its need for maintenance. Our instruction covers how to water the garden, control weeds, and scout for common Illinois pests.  We also focus on safety, which is why we will show you how to harvest your vegetables and follow good food safety practices.

By taking this course, you will join a community of teachers across Illinois working to build their own school gardens. s“Our online forums allow you to ask and share with your fellow teachers and ask our horticulture experts questions.

Registrants can access the online modules at any time once they join the course, including access to an online question and answer forum curated by Extension Educators and fellow course participants.

School gardens lend themselves to support the Next Generation Science Standards serving as living laboratories. Students can explore environmental factors first-hand and document phenomenon that take place in the garden. Food is also an important component. It builds communities, strengthens families, and builds a healthy body. Teaching your students to grow good food gives them skills they can use the rest of their life and builds within them a sense of accomplishment. There is nothing better than tasting the fruits of your labor and playing an active role in growing your own food.

Experiencing vegetable gardening firsthand is a life-changing experience that helps build communities around healthy food, especially during the summer months. Our course caters to both experienced gardeners and beginners by providing the information you need to start with success. We have seen schools continue on year after year feeding the community or a local food pantry after using the course materials.

It doesn’t matter your skill level in gardening. What matters is getting started and learning right along with your students. With this course you will learn the basics to build a thriving school garden program, whether big or small.  We will also connect you with various other resources to learn even more about vegetable gardening and build upon what you learn in this course.

Join University of Illinois Extension as we help to teach our youngest generation the skill of gardening so they can take part in something humans have been doing for thousands of years... growing their own food. We’ll see you in the garden!

School Gardening Resource

Registration Opens in 2024

Incorporate Gardening into your Curriculum


  • Analyze and describe the shapes of plants, leaves, and produce.
  • Measure plants and produce (with standard or non-standard tools).
  • Cut up a vegetable to practice fractions.
  • Use various seeds for addition and subtraction.
  • Race beans up a trellis. Plant beans at the base of a trellis and track their growth on a chart.
  • Predict dates of germination and maturity by using information from seed sources.
  • Determine when each crop should be planted by counting backward from the harvest date.
  • Measure the garden perimeter and calculate the area.
  • Create a map of the garden to scale using graph paper.

Social Studies

  • Plant a Three Sisters Native American garden.
  • Research the history of a garden plant.
  • Draw a garden map to scale.
  • Study all the ways people use different plants.

Language Arts

  • Read books and stories about plants and gardens.
  • Write and illustrate a collection of garden stories and poems.
  • Use the garden as a space to journal.
  • Brainstorm different adjectives to describe each plant in your garden.
  • Study new vocabulary that relates to plants and gardens.
  • Write step-by-step instructions for common garden activities
  • Follow written instructions to perform a garden task like planting seeds.
  • Write a research paper on a favorite plant.
  • Learn about the origins of scientific plant names.
  • Act out a story in the garden (Check out the Junior Master Gardener Program & American Horticultural Society lists of plant, garden, and ecology fiction books for children.
  • Design your own story garden.
  • Design a garden around the theme of a book.
  • Relax and read in the garden!


  • Answer questions about the garden by investigating with their senses, reasoning, and communication skills.
  • Key science concepts by exploring the gardens
    • organisms
    • cycles
    • requirements for life
    • plant and insect anatomy
    • adaptations
    • food webs
    • soil structure & decomposition
    • interdependence
    • pollination
    • weather and climate monitoring
    • biodiversity
  • Practice experimental design skills by observing, classifying, concluding, measuring, predicting, organizing, and interpreting data, forming hypotheses, and identifying variables.


  • Create paintings and drawings of garden plants.
  • Create dyes and watercolors from plants and flowers.
  • Make a seed mosaic.
  • Create a color wheel collage using nature items or pictures from old seed catalogs.
  • Stamp with various plant parts.
  • Use leaves to make crayon rubbings or fossils in clay.

Health and Nutrition

  • Study the nutritional value of the crops in your garden.
  • Identify the parts of the plant with common fruits and vegetables.
  • Taste test different fruits and vegetables.
  • Grow a salad garden and give students a chance to sample the harvest.