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2014 Challenge Runner-up

Lifespan Montessori

Athens, GA

We were inspired by SECA's challenge to create this outdoor classroom space and this prompted us to engage the community (several businesses donated supplies and resources and continue to do so for our garden), create ongoing opportunities for parents to be involved (e.g., regularly scheduled gardening days and farm days), and most importantly, improve the outdoor learning environment for our children enrolled at Lifespan. Because Lifespan is the first preschool in Athens, GA to achieve the "Green School" title, we receive in-kind and monetary donations from Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful ( on a continuous or as needed basis.


Donations received to date have been used toward the purchase of potting soil for our gardens. Other examples of community involvement include tire donations from University Tire ( for which we use to plant flowers, as well as dirt, sand and rock donations from Andros Landscaping (no website). Now that our garden is established, we  have a need for supplies that would help support its sustainability. These include: shovels, hoes, watering cans, pots, an indoor heating pad to be able to start seedlings inside, and supplies to build a small green house for plants that require this type of environment to thrive.


Our motivation for starting our garden in 2009 stemmed from the importance we place on children having the opportunity to care for live plants and the environment, which are inherent in our school's mission:

Lifespan strives to embody Montessori ideology in the early education of our students. Our mission is to provide a loving environment wherein every child can feel comfortable, safe, and open to explore new horizons. Hands-on approaches are used to care for the environment through tending to live plants and animals, as well as recycling, composting, and resource conservation. Youth enrichment programs are centered on the arts and the celebration of various cultures. Above all, our mission is to encourage students to care for each other.

By incorporating school gardens into our curricula, the children learn about the nutritional properties of the foods that plants produce and even incorporate the fruits and vegetables into classroom meals and snacks that they prepare. In the summer months, the children are able to learn about mathematics and currency exchange when they sell their produce at our school Farmer's Markets. Moreover, the children learn about water conservation and recycling rainwater in their gardening projects using water from rain barrels (donated to us by our county water conservation office). Because recycled materials were also donated to the school's garden, the children learn about re-purposing materials that are no longer needed for their original purpose (tires, for example, that can now hold flowering and other non-edible plants). Lastly, children are able to learn about supporting our local businesses. Many of the live plants used in our garden were obtained by parents and children who visited local nurseries prior to our gardening day.