students spaced out on straw bales

School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms During COVID Times

Schools have gardens for different reasons: to bolster academic achievement through hands on experiential education; to increase nutrition by exposing kids to healthy food choices; or to meet the social emotional  needs of individual students. Whatever a school’s reason to have a garden, this year that garden has the potential to serve not just as a hands on experiential education classroom, but also just a literal outdoor classroom. In these times, schools around Central Oregon are forging ahead in new and different ways to adapt to COVID-19. Whether public or private, local schools are already or will at some point in the future have at least small groups of students in person. Why not use the garden as a place to gather your students to work outside?

School Garden as Outdoor Classroom

School gardens offer not just all the regular benefits of a school garden, but also simply a place to work with students outside in the open fresh air. From a COVID-19 safety standpoint regarding aerosols, this is the best place to be, at least while the weather holds. For schools that already have a robust outdoor garden space, maybe all that’s required to make it more of a classroom space is seating. Straw bales offer sturdy flexible and affordable option, that can be used as mulch later in it’s life. For other schools, it might be portable teaching supplies, shade sails, or picnic tables.

Garden Grants Now Available

However your garden or outdoor space is currently utilized, our garden grants can support purchasing material and supplies to get the infrastructure in place to help you utilize your potential outdoor classroom. For 2020, we have pushed back our application deadline to December 18th, giving schools time to reimagine their outdoor spaces for next spring and beyond. Green Schoolyards has been working with professionals all over the country to compile ideas, resources and tools (including an “augmented reality visualizer for outdoor classrooms”) to help schools use this moment as an opportunity to transform their outdoor spaces. (The “Outdoor Infrastructure” section is particularly rich with helpful images and tools.)

Eligibility information, application and report are all available to download. Feel free to email denise to see if your project is a good fit for our 2020/2021 garden grants.

Our 2020-2021 Garden Grant applications

Important Dates:

  • Applications due December 18th, 2020.
  • Grant summary reports with photos are due Friday May 28th, 2020.

Note: If you are a new garden in the Bend-La Pine School District, we’ve worked with the district to develop a school garden development process that ensures everyone is on the same page and working together towards a sustainable school garden. Please visit our school gardens page and scroll down to “District Level Support” to learn more.

Questions? Please email Denise Rowcroft or call 541-312-8700.