The Environmental Center Awards Over $23k to Central Oregon Schools and Organizations for Learning Gardens

school garden in the sun

The next time you pass by your local school or youth center, take a look to see if they have a garden on site. If they do, or you see signs of an emerging garden project, chances are they are among the schools assisted by The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School Program. This school year, The Environmental Center is pleased to award $23,000 to 17 schools and organizations to fund a variety of school garden projects across Central Oregon. Projects range from building a new outdoor garden installation at a juvenile detention facility, to reviving multiple public school outdoor garden classrooms, as well as classroom projects like a Mayan plant and food studies project for emergent multilingual learners.

woman signing checks at a table in an office

Denise signs checks to be sent out to Garden for Every School grant recipients.

“In our 6th year of running an annual small grant program for garden based projects with youth, we’re continuing to see a trend of more schools building or improving school garden spaces each year. For some schools it’s to increase outdoor hands-on STEM opportunities, others seek culturally relevant ways to engage their students and families, and some see the therapeutic potential of gardens and actively utilize them for SEL (social emotional learning) outcomes,” says Denise Rowcroft, Garden For Every School Program Manager. “Whatever their goals, we’re excited to support schools that engage in food and garden based learning in the ways that are best for them.”

school garden in the sun

The existing garden at Warm Springs K-8 Academy, ready for students and teachers to get their hands dirty!

Recipient schools and organizations will collectively serve over 2,000 youth in school garden projects in Sunriver, Bend, Redmond, Powell Butte, Madras and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Schools and youth organizations include: Central Christian School, Deschutes County Juvenile Justice Center (via COIC), Deschutes Children’s Foundation, Desert Sky Montessori School, Ensworth Elementary School, Highland Elementary School, Jefferson County Middle School, Jewell Elementary School, Sprouts Montessori Children’s House, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, Three Rivers School, Tom McCall Elementary School, Westside Village Magnet School, Warm Springs K-8 Academy & Warm Springs Early Childhood Education Center (via OSU Extension Warm Springs). An additional school in Redmond is pending school district approval.

This year the Rotary Club of Greater Bend partnered to provide an additional $3,000 of funding across two projects, Deschutes Detention Center Peace Garden and Desert Sky Montessori’s School Garden. “The Rotary Club of Greater Bend Environmental Committee is excited to work with the Environmental Center’s efforts. Rotary has always been supportive of youth and education, and now gardens are a great practical educational opportunity that also brings in dimensions like healthy food, self-sufficiency, a healthy environment, STEM topics, and caretaking.” says Rebecca Kauffman, Director of Environmental & Sustainability at the Rotary Club of Greater Bend. “We look forward to working with our grant awardees, getting our hands dirty again along-side the Desert Sky Montessori parents and students as well as with the Deschutes County Juvenile Detention Center for success with their gardens.”

two high school girls hold plants next to a garden bed

Sisters High School was a recipient of funding in 2021-2022 to support their learning garden on site.

Since 2017 The Environmental Center has raised and awarded over $84,000 to support local schools and community organizations in their garden-based learning efforts. These garden grants would not be possible without the support of individual donors, local and regional businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations. Thanks to support from all of our Garden for Every School supporters: Bend Urban Gardens, Central Electric Cooperative, Inc., Central Oregon Beekeeping Association, Central Oregon Health Council, Clabough Foundation, Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, El Sancho, Ford Family Foundation, Johnson Ohana Foundation, Mt Bachelor, New Sun Energy, Ohana Salsa, Oregon Department of Education Farm to Child Program, Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Network, Pacific Power Foundation, Rosso Family Foundation, Saginaw Sunset, Savory Spice Shop, Somewhere That’s Green and Washington Trust Bank.

If you would like to contribute to the school garden grant fund to help fund even more school garden projects, please contact Denise Rowcroft at