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GROWing Outdoor Learning

Posted: 1:46PM August 4th, 2011 | Comments

Did you know that there are 33 vegetable gardens at Madison public schools?  From the brand, spanking new Blackhawk Middle School garden to one of the old, originals at Lapham Elementary school gardens are flourishing.  And, it's not just school gardens.  A movement around outdoor learning is taking shape in other ways.   You will find Wright Middle Schools kids canoeing on Wingra Creek right in their own backyard or students at Crestwood Elementary tapping maple syrup from their very own woodland.

How we can we help support and grow this work?  Work that an increasing body of evidence is showing to quantifiably improve students’ achievement in school, as well as greatly adding to self-esteem, sense of responsibility, and cooperation with peers?

Well, there is a new coalition in town.  The GrassRoots/OutdoorWonder or GROW Coalition founded by Sustain Dane and Health Forward Consulting in partnership with Community GroundWorks and UW Extenstion.  It is a collective of organizations and individuals who are passionate about outdoor learning and want to work to build together what has already started.

Just last week Joe Muellenburg, founder of the Glendale Elementary School Garden and a GROW Coalition member, held the first ever GROW Coalition Garden Tour.  A group of ten started the day at the new Blackhawk Middle School garden, followed by a visit to the gardens at Sherman Middle School and Lowell Elementary School.  Completing the morning with a delightful lunch made by youth at the Goodman Community Center’s Ironworks Café and a tour of the Goodman Community Garden.   Joe and his fellow travelers left the tour inspired by the work they saw and energized by the connections they made.  Joe is already thinking about organizing another tour this fall.  So be sure to stay tuned as this group gets into gear.  Expect to see a GROW coalition website by the end of the summer and there will no doubt be more garden tours in the future.

- Rachel

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