The Promise of a Garden: From School Garden Interest to School-wide Initiative
Dr. Jennifer Williams, Executive Director, Take Action Global, International Educator Community and Dr. Mary Meadows, Head of School, Andrews Academy, St. Louis, Missouri
Over the past several months, our team at Take Action Global has had the opportunity to join in conversations with IDEA community members to discuss ways classrooms can take action for the planet through sustainability and environmental education. With classrooms exploring climate across the curriculum and across grade levels, we were excited to sit down with Dr. Mary Meadows, Head of School of Andrews Academy in St. Louis, to learn more about how her school has taken on the climate crisis and given back to their local and global community through a school-wide school garden initiative.
Jennifer: In our organization at Take Action Global, we have a mission of climate education for all. With many schools eager to take on a school-wide initiative, we’d love to learn from the process and steps you and your community have taken over the past few years. What prompted your early interest in climate action education? Did you face any barriers in the beginning?
Mary: Our interest in outdoor education, sustainability, and transitioning to student-centered teaching and learning led to the onset of a project-based learning initiative. Time constraints and lack of gardening experience initially presented challenges for our school community, however our understanding of the benefits of young children having access to the outdoors and its relevance to developing knowledge of and concern for the environment was undoubtedly foundational to our success.
Jennifer: In your role as Head of School, I know you have committed to guiding and supporting teachers and students throughout the process. Do you have any top tips for other school leaders interested in starting and sustaining a climate action project such as a school garden?
Mary: We prioritize our school garden as an essential initiative of our school’s mission. Here are a few key aspects of the program:
- Aim to keep a consistent schedule to allocate time for project initiatives
- Assignment of all faculty members to specific grade level classes for the year-long initiative
- Project selection guided by student interests related to the school garden and sustainability
- Research efforts supported by community connections
- Ongoing documentation, reflection, and sharing of the projects throughout the duration of the initiative with a year-end assembly and expo
Jennifer: We are excited to welcome your school Andrews Academy as one of our Founding Climate Action Schools for 2022-2023. As you are three years into your own school initiative, what can schools new to taking on sustainability programs look forward to?
Mary: We recently completed our third school year of our school garden program, which involved the addition of a stewardship component, connecting each grade level’s initiative with a related community need. Emphasis on sustainability resulted in renaming our efforts to what is now known in the Andrews Academy school community as Sustainable Development and Stewardship (SDS). We look forward to a transformative year as a Climate Action Schools participant.
Thanks to Dr. Mary Meadows for sharing about her school’s adventures in learning and action for the planet. To learn more about Andrews Academy, you can visit https://www.andrewsacademy.com.
Ready to get moving on your own school-wide initiative around sustainability, climate action, and outdoor education? Check out the new IDEA Climate Action Schools program, a new program for Illinois PreK-12 schools from Take Action Global and IDEA: https://www.ideaillinois.org/blog/12908382
Dr. Jennifer Williams is the Co-Executive Director of Take Action Global. She has joined IDEA as a speaker for IDEACon, IDEAU, and IDEA Webinar Wednesday. Her ISTE book, Teach Boldly: Using Edtech for Social Good has been featured by IDEA and included in the IDEA Book Club. Connect with Jennifer and Take Action Global at www.takeactionglobal.org and @TakeActionEdu on social media.