The day before a visit to the Learning Garden, prepare students by letting them know that tomorrow you will be visiting the Learning Garden. On the day of your visit, be clear and explain to your students why you are visiting the Learning Garden before you go outside. When you arrive in the Learning Garden have your students share the purpose of your visit before you start any other activity. Remember, the purpose of your visit may be to do an educational activity or to participate in a Learning Garden task like watering.
Create a Learning Garden routine, go often, keep it short. Present clear rules and consequence when you are in the Learning Garden; use the Learning Garden Rule Making. Remember, the first few times you go to the Learning Garden might be difficult. Prepare additional indoor activities in case you need to return inside with your class. Remember to keep trying, the students will learn how to follow the Learning Garden rules through repeat visits. Foster student ownership and buy-in through scaffolding students’ voice and choice in the Learning Garden. Start with activities in the Learning Garden that are highly engaging and excite the students. This can simply be the Kick-Off Day activities or an introductory scavenger hunt. Students will learn and see that there is real food growing in your Learning Garden. Provide opportunities for students to harvest and eat from the Learning Garden whenever possible. Students who have become accustomed to their Learning Garden can be presented with additional choices; you may allow students to choose what task(s) they want to complete while they are visiting.
Support your students to be comfortable in an outdoor classroom through learning new garden related skills. It is important to reaffirm positive outdoor classroom behaviors and model garden skills to students not only during your first visit to the Learning Garden, but during each visit. Focus on teamwork and cooperative learning through small group work for hands-on activities. When students are in small groups make sure that everyone has a role or a task to help build responsibility. Don’t forget to balance quiet, reflective activities with active, hands-on activities
Remember being outdoors means students will be more excited, loud, and physical, but it can also mean that students can learn to be calmer, focused, and task oriented. Create an outdoor classroom space that your students are comfortable in and know to return to when asked. Set your students up for success by providing them clipboards with pencils attached so they don’t lose their work or writing utensil. Be prepared for emergencies. Always have a first aid kit in the garden. Know if any of your students have special health concerns, such as asthma or an allergy to bee stings. Have your students bring a water bottle or visit the bathroom and drinking fountain before and after you visit to the Learning Garden.
Create a support system through your Learning Garden Team. Look for opportunities for team teaching, buddy classes, or volunteers. Buddy classes are a great opportunity for cross-age support and guidance while keeping everyone in the Learning Garden busy. Volunteers can come from a variety of places, including: your school’s PTA, a local university or college, community members and neighbors, and other invested adults who will help keep your students to adult ratio low.