School Gardens and Native Plants
In 1995, the California Department of Education launched “A Garden in Every School” initiative to promote education in fields as varied as nutrition, health, science, math, reading, and environmental studies. All these disciplines can be integrated in a school garden setting to teach students new skills and to enhance their ability to observe and think. A school garden helps students gain an understanding of natural systems through firsthand experience. School gardens foster community spirit by bringing students, school staff, families, local businesses, and organizations together.
The California Native Plant Society promotes the inclusion of native plants in every school garden. Native plants help students learn the vital connection between plants and higher forms of life. Plants are at the bottom of the food chain, and native plants are a primary component of healthy ecosystems. Just as edible plants are important for human health and survival, native plants are equally necessary to other forms of life. Native plants help pollinator populations survive and thrive, which in turn help pollinate edible crops.
Some ideas for incorporating native plants in school gardens:
In addition, native plants can be a part of the following types of gardens:
Before starting a school native plant garden, it is important to analyze site characteristics (soil, exposure, grade, existing hardscape, precipitation, etc.) and choose appropriate locally native plants. This will maximize chances for success while minimizing the inputs and efforts required. See Betsey Landis’s Native Plant Gardens for Schools and Urban Areas: A Survival Guide for information about how to assess your site and choose appropriate plants, a glossary of native plant communities, and other helpful information.
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