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2014 Challenge Runner-up

Mount Pleasant Elementary School
Livingston, NJ

We currently have six raised beds but we would like to expand our growing capacity by adding archway trellises in between the raised beds.  This would allow more children and community members to benefit from the garden and allow for excess vegetables to be donated to our local food pantry.  

Focusing on sustainability we would also like to use the funds to purchase supplies to help us have more success with our seed starts.  Supplies might include growing lamps and mini greenhouses.  Should there be additional funds, we would like to add a secondary garden area, which the students could vote on. Possibilities would include a pumpkin patch, a spiral heb garden, or an expansion to our duck habitat.

Inspired by the Livingston Food Day Initiative, two parents and MPE’s School Counselor were trying to create an opportunity for students at their school to be excited about eating healthy and the benefits of gardening.

Our Principal jumped at the chance to bring a garden learning experience to our students and presented us with an unused courtyard that simply needed vision, commitment and some funds to transform it into an outdoor learning lab. Nowadays children are asked to do so much academic work and the pressures are mounting. We all believed that our students could benefit from a garden space where they could get their hands dirty, connect with nature, and slow down.

From the start, students were involved in dreaming up possibilities and planning.  Students were asked to vote for a garden theme and three options were presented: a rainbow, snack or pizza garden. The rainbow garden won and each raised bed was designated a color of the rainbow. A small start-up grant was secured and the wood was donated to build raised beds.


Students brought in recycled materials that were used as mini greenhouses and classes signed up to plant seeds. Our parent instructor worked along side the school counselor and teachers to engage students and get them excited about gardening. The excitement was contagious as students watched their seeds become seedlings and eventually planted in the garden. Through their experiences, students learned about the lifecycle of plants, sustainability, healthy eating and horticulture, which has enhanced our science and health curriculum.

Over the summer, 25 school families signed up to care for the garden and they maintained the garden while enjoying school-grown produce. They documented their garden experience so everyone in our school could be a part of the journey. A large poster was created so students and teachers could visually see the garden’s transformation. And once school started students and teachers could see and harvest tomatoes, peas, eggplant, bell peppers and corn still plentiful. 

It has been amazing for children, parents and teachers, the majority of who have never had the opportunity or even desire to garden. And the learning has extended beyond science to include real community building.  Students have learned to work together; teachers have used the space for class activities; families have connected; and everyone has planted knowing that others may reap the benefits.