Southern Boone Learning Garden
The Southern Boone Learning Garden was started in 2007 in Ashland, Missouri, a town of about 4,000 people, by two mothers who wanted to bring the experiences of healthy eating and sustainable food production to their children’s school in a way that was exciting and participatory for the students. Community volunteers helped build and sustain the garden and its programming entirely through the end of 2012, at which point SBLG received a grant through the Missouri Foundation for Health that would allow it to employ an executive director, two contractual employees, and two Americorps VISTAs.
The garden serves as an unparalleled site for scientific and creative inquiry within the school district so we strive to involve students as much as possible. Our Garden Club is an 8-week after school program that can serve 30 students each semester with an extended garden curriculum. We work with classroom teachers to schedule and plan school-day garden lessons that provide enrichment for the subjects being taught during regular class time. We tie each garden lesson to relevant Core Curriculum standards so that the school day lessons enrich those in the classroom. Art and music teachers are also excited about using the garden as creative inspiration.
The ultimate goal of the SBLG is to serve dually as a foundation for healthy futures for students and as a starting point for healthy lifestyle initiatives to spread into the community. Ashland’s residents do not have ample access to healthy foods and an active lifestyle, but the Learning Garden is changing that. When students get excited about vegetable from the garden they take that enthusiasm home to their parents’ kitchens. Adult community members, even those without students in the district, are eager to see the school succeed. For this reason we have many community members who volunteer in the garden or with our Walking School Bus program that gets students and adult chaperones moving to start the day. During the summer months, we sell our produce with student volunteers at the local farmer’s market. Sometimes people who do not ordinarily buy fresh produce or buy from local markets are eager to support the students and wind up trying something new and healthy. With ample support, we can ensure that the benefits of the garden are felt by all members of the community.