Ten years ago, Roberta Paolo asked the principal of Loveland Primary School for a flower garden. She wanted to establish a place where schoolchildren, including her own grandchildren, could pick flowers.
Today, Granny’s Garden School
includes 100 vegetable and flower beds, a three-quarter-mile nature trail and an apple orchard that provide hands-on nature education to 1,500-1,700 school children each week. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the program, which has become one of the largest and most comprehensive school gardens in the United States. What’s more, Paolo’s innovative and curriculum-centered program has gained national recognition as a model for school garden programs, a trend that is taking off across the country.
What makes Granny’s Garden School so successful? According to Paolo, herself a lifelong gardener, a love of gardening is only part of the story. Granny’s Garden provides “garden teachers” and a host of volunteers to ensure that nature instruction follows Ohio curriculum standards as well as teachers’ lesson plans. “We update our garden programs each year,” Paolo says. “Our program facilitates interaction between the garden teacher and the students.”
Granny’s Garden provides kids with hands-on learning experiences that fuel their minds as well as their bodies. Not only are children learning important lessons while they work, they reap the benefits of eating homegrown produce, which is served in the school cafeteria.
The garden is located on the 24-acre campus of Loveland Primary and Elementary School. Volunteers are essential to operate a program of this size, and the school is currently seeking new faces. “The garden can accommodate up to 100 volunteers at one time, making it a great opportunity for families, individuals and corporate groups,” Paolo says.
She has assisted local schools with their own gardens, including Wilson Elementary School and Rothenberg Preparatory Academy,and is making an impact in other schools as well. Her Schoolyard Nature Network provides financial, in-kind and training resources for school garden programs. “We want to help other schools learn from our experience,” she says. She also works with “green” partners to establish a sustainable funding stream for garden coordinators.
“The next crop of consumers is growing in school gardens," Paolo says. "We need to work together to fund and support our gardens or risk losing momentum.”
• Serve on a board committee.
• Give in-kind for Granny’s wish list.