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This post contributed by recent UBC Land & Food Systems graduate, Tania Leon

Many cities have jumped on board with school gardens and we believe in sharing great ideas and success stories. CitySprouts in Cambridge, MA is one of them.

CitySprouts started in 2000 through a partnership with the Cambridge Public School District and has since expanded to deliver projects across eastern Massachusetts in Boston, Lynn, and Gloucester. It is a garden-based education program that now involves more than 6000 students in public schools and is highly integrated into the school curriculum.

Like FreshRoots, the CitySprouts program uses hands-on workshops to provide students with valuable skills that connect them to the environment and how the food cycle really works. Students experience the farm-to-table process from actively maintaining and harvesting these gardens to preparing (and eating!) healthy food.

We’ve noticed that many teachers have embraced these learning gardens and are using them for more than you might think! Math students learn about measuring and charting the growth of pea plants. Arts students create natural sculptures in the gardens and watch them transform and become part of the garden landscape. Science students learn the physics of apple cider pressing. There are so many possibilities and creative reasons to use these learning gardens that it’s hard not to go outside for class!

I asked CitySprouts how they keep busy during the winter and found out that a lot of planning and fundraising work happens during this time of year. In the schools, staff continue to work with teachers and classes on activities such as creating worm bins, developing their ancient grains project, linking to social studies classes and other connections to the wintertime curriculum.

CitySprouts has also compiled and shared an Essential Plant List on their website that identifies plants suited to school gardens and their particular climate. This is a great starting point for any school garden to develop their own list of ideal plants that would thrive locally and please the students too!

Visit CitySprouts at http://citysprouts.org

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