NCEF Resource List: School Gardens
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Information on creating school gardens for outdoor learning, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

References to Books and Other Media

School Garden Checklist
(Let's Move, May 2012)
Step-by-step guide, which offers important information about how to safely grow fruits and vegetables with students. Discusses site selection, soil health, designing for students, plant palette. Includes resources. 2p

Developing Great Schoolyards - A Handbook for Elementary Schools. Adobe PDF
(The 21st Century School Fund, Washington, D.C. and the Prince Charitable Trusts, Oct 2011)
Handbook explores outdoor spaces such as small athletic fields, vegetable gardens, and playgrounds that provide opportunities for physical challenges, exercise, sensory and fantasy play, organized sports and upsupervised free play. Features the District of Columbia public elementary schoolyards. Explains the qualities communities and parents should look for in schoolyards. Includes an assessment tool to rate your elementary schoolyard, and advice on how to plan and develop a quality schoolyard. 31p

Flowers, Plants, and Gardening: For Kids!
(, 2011)
Compilation of great sources of information for children on plants, botany, gardening, horticulture, hydroponics, and much more. [Recommended by Ms. McKnight's class in Delaware.]

Roots and Research in Urban School Gardens
Gaylie, Veronica
(Peter Lang , 2011)
Explores the history of school gardens and shows the value of these small urban plots to educators, students, and the communities served by these gardening projects. Highlights small gardens by region, recounting the history of each garden project, student experiences there, and the pedagogical practice each site employed. Includes case studies from California, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada's West Coast. In each region, the author sets the specific cultural context for the gardens she describes. Identifies the need for school gardens by addressing increasing social concerns like food shortage, a disconnect between children and the earth, critical-thinking skills, ecological awareness, and environmental disarray in urban areas. 195p

School Greenhouse Guide
(National Gardening Association, Nov 2010)
This online guide to school greenhouses is a basic overview of key issues relevant to educators planning to run—or currently running—a school greenhouse program. It covers both operational and horticultural topics. Includes information on different styles of greenhouses, solar vs. supplemental heat, figuring costs, selecting a location, glazing, environmental controls, light, air/soil, cooling, venting, and heating.

Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation.
Danks, Sharon
(New Village Press , Nov 2010)
Guidebook for designing and building natural schoolyard environments that enhance childhood learning and play experiences while providing connection with the natural world. Intended for parents, teachers, school administrators, designers, environmentalists, and community volunteers. Explores the ways in which landscape design, architecture, child development, and nutrition converge in the schoolyard. Profusely illustrated. 288p.

Realistic Contributions for Improving the Physical School Environment.
Albert, Lauren
(California State University, Chico , 2010)
Identifies improvements to schools' culture, through various projects enhancing the physical aesthetics of the school. The premise of the project is based on findings from a survey, which was directed at the aspects of the schools' physical environment that caused increases in students' learning. This project provides a handbook of realistic resources for improving a school's physical environment. The handbook outlines four project ideas to be completed by the school community for minimal costs. The four project ideas are 1) School Murals, 2) School Garden, 3) Paint with School Colors Benches, Doors, etc., and 4) Plant Trees with Identification Tags. The projects are organized with step-by-step instructions for ease of completion. Additionally, the handbook provides resource ideas for funding. Creating an enriching physical school environment has been shown to improve students' attitudes toward learning, thus positively influencing test scores. This handbook is intended to improve the grounds and facilities of a school with the end result being a more motivated school community. [author's abstract] 144p.

How to Grow a School Garden.
Bucklin-Sporer, Arden; Pringle, Rachel
(Timber Press, Portland, OR , 2010)
Advises teachers and parents on creating school gardens. Site design and funding are discussed, as is incorporating the garden into the curriculum. Lesson plans, plant selection information, horticultural technique, and recipes are also detailed. 224p.

References to Journal Articles

School Design and Students’ Relationships with the Natural World
Indira Dutt
Children, Youth and Environments; v22 n1 , p198-226 ; Spring 2012
This qualitative study is an exploration of intermediate students’ experience of the natural world as mediated by indoor/outdoor elements. The fieldwork for this project was conducted in the spring of 2009 at Bowen Island Community School in British Columbia. The research includes data collected from two focus groups, semi- structured interviews, photographs and fieldnotes. Using thematic analysis, the research found that indoor/outdoor interfaces and the presence of both gardens and forest as play environments provided students with a sense of freedom, joy, social cohesiveness and aesthetic pleasure in relation to their physical learning environment. Results are discussed in terms of future school design and other relevant student impacts. [Author's abstract]

Realizing a Holistic Approach to Food through School Gardens and Growing Activities
Mat Jones, Emma Weitkamp, Richard Kimberlee, Debra Salmon and Judy Orme
Children, Youth, and Environments; , p75-98 ; Spring 2012
Garden-enhanced education in schools is increasingly recognized as a promising strategy for promoting healthier eating and environmental awareness for children. Analysis of the development of school garden initiatives can offer insights into how these benefits may be optimized. Using a mixed-methods approach, our study tracked the progress of 55 primary schools participating in the Food for Life Partnership: a multi-component school food program. The findings showed considerable expansion of food growing facilities, outputs and supporting infrastructure. Participating students, parents and community volunteers helped create new links to food-related activities in the dining hall, the classroom and the home environment. This provided a mandate for lead teaching staff, often working under conditions of social deprivation and poor green space, to create a more holistic approach to food in school life. The effectiveness of these changes connected to the strategic re-development of growing spaces and the conceptually integrated messages on food sustainability. [Authors' abstract]

Reconnecting Kids to Nature: The Benefits of School Gardens
Bucklin-Sporer, Arden and Pringle, Rachel Kathleen
Natural Home and Garden; Feb 2011
School gardens provide a space for students to reconnect to the ecology around them and learn about natural systems that support life on our planet. excerpt from "How to Grow a School: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers" by Arden Bucklin-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle (Timber Press, 2010). The excerpt is from Chapter 1: Why School Gardens?



Due to lack of funding, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities is currently available only as an archived site. As of September 1, 2012 no new content will be added or updates made. We regret the need to take such steps, but should funding become available, we look forward to reinvigorating NCEF and providing this valuable resource to the educational facilities community.

If you have questions or are an organization or company wishing to support the continued operation of this industry recognized resource please contact Institute President Henry Green (, 202-289-7800).