Slow Food USA’s "Growing Leaders in the Garden" is a Professional Development series that brings Slow Food staff and curriculum leaders to schools to help connect the school garden to classroom subject areas. We offer training in gardening, cooking classes, leadership in the garden, and programs like Youth Farmers Markets, Garden to Cafeteria and Produce for Pantries. Upcoming workshops include Lawrence, KS School District (Feb 2016).
Slow Food USA's "Growing Leaders in the Garden" Series
Austin Independent School District, September 2015
This past September, Slow Food USA National School Garden Program hosted a Professional Development series in Austin, TX. The two days were filled with workshops on how to manage and maintain a school program, how to implement cooking and tasting classes as means for teaching children healthy habits, and more information on garden funding. The workshop was a great success; below are some of the stats from a post-workshop evaluation:
- 92% of attendees already had a garden in their school
- 50% of whom had a school garden for over 5 consecutive years
- Only 29%, however, were engaged in cooking or tasting classes
- 88% of participants said they signed up for the training because they wanted ideas for and assistance with school garden programming
- 96% of attendees responded after the conference that they found the content relevant and that is met their needs
- 92% rated the quality of the training content "Excellent"
- 96% were wowed by the presentation quality and style
- 71% of the respondents of the evaluation said that after the conference they were more likely to use lessons from the workshop to increase activity in the garden
We asked the participants from the Austin Teacher Training for feedback on what they learned. This is what we heard...
"How to get children excited about vegetables. How to safely teach a cooking class. How to get assistance financially for the garden."
"I have not been trained on cooking with children and had several ah ha moments."
"Excellent organization and instruction- I appreciate that you allowed for so much input and discussion from/amongst attendees."
Additional Workshop Resources
Since the majority of the Slow Food programming in school gardens is delivered by volunteers and teachers who may not be familiar with all the uniqueness of a garden lesson based on Slow Food philosophies, it will be important to conduct workshops that train the garden educators on how to deliver the curriculum.
1. Survey teachers to discover what topics the workshop should cover View
Slow Food Denver holds a monthly workshop that is open to all volunteers and teachers who bring students into the gardens. The theme of the workshops varies each month, but try to address seasonally appropriate lessons that can be applied immediately in the schools. For example, in February the workshop may show how to plant seeds and take care of seedlings in the classrooms. In the August workshop, a lesson on how to cook with students using garden produce is presented to the volunteers.
2. Plan the workshop structure View
As you might imagine, these kinds of workshops can extend well beyond educating teachers and volunteers on implementing various curricula. They are also great opportunities to provide lessons learned from other sections of this manual, including things like negotiating school district policies regarding school gardens (approved garden materials, health and safety codes, volunteer background checks, etc.) and fundraising for gardens: how to fill out a grant application, where to look for funding, how to tell your story.
In addition, we have provided examples of professional development workshops that are designed to train volunteers and teachers in how to teach from a school garden. We feel that professional development is key to the successful implementation of school gardens in the classroom. These workshops represent a different kind of curriculum that we’ve worked to develop for use in the garden.
- Introduction to Gardening with Kids
- Introduction to Cooking with Kids
- Connecting food with culture and heritage and instilling pride in food traditions
- Growing and Cooking with Herbs, including how to start a school herb garden, how to harvest, and how to use fresh herbs with young learners
- Edible Perennials and Permaculture in the School Garden
3. Find partners to support your efforts View
A Slow Food chapter may not have all of the expertise necessary to run professional development workshops. In that case, a good strategy is to develop relationships with local organizations that may have the same or similar mission and invite them to lead a workshop. Use the following list to brainstorm possible partnerships. In exchange, you can advertise their events to your members and school gardens.
- Environmental education organizations
- Permaculture groups
- Urban agriculture groups
- Local farms
- Cooking schools
- Gardening associations
- Community garden associations
- Local university or college teachers
- USDA Agriculture in the Classroom Program
4. Execute the training View
Here a few examples of documents used during a garden workshop that can be used as templates:
- SAGE Garden-based Education Workshop Agenda (Slow Food Chicago)
- SAGE Garden-based Teacher Training Registration Form (Slow Food Chicago)
- SAGE Teacher Training Workshop Objectives (Slow Food Chicago)