40. School Gardens

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School Gardens

Saturday, October 22 at 10:00-11:40 am, Cedar Room

Session Description: School Nature Gardens serve as outdoor classrooms, living laboratories and community hubs centered around native plants. Powerfully, these gardens illuminate the beauty and value of students’ own communities, providing a gateway to biodiversity not miles away, but right at home. School Nature Gardens—and the opportunities they create through classes, extracurricular programming and professional development—have inspired generations of students to become scientists, policymakers, horticulturalists and beyond. Hear from School Nature Garden leaders about these vibrant landscapes and the strategies to cultivate and activate them.

Session Chairs: Catherine Chang (Madrone Design Studio, Oakland, CA, USA) and Maru Echeverria (Madrone Design Studio, Oakland, CA, USA)

40.1 Planting Empowerment: Native Plants in School Gardens

Carrie Strohl, Ph.D. (The School Garden Doctor, Napa, CA, USA)

School campuses have tremendous restoration potential; however, the politics of school governance can interfere with efforts to incorporate native plants into the landscape. Traditional groundskeeping practices, complicated budgetary constraints, and inherent knowledge gaps overshadow the educational potential native plants have for school sites. As a result, few teachers, schools, or communities are able to successfully implement native plant restoration. Grounded in the social science methodology of ethnographic storytelling, this talk will share four examples from Napa County with a specific focus on native plants in school gardens. Analyzed through an empowerment theory lens, each narrative will highlight the ongoing barriers to increasing native plant presence in and around schools, while emphasizing a continuum of empowerment opportunities. We will conclude with implications for how local agencies can collaborate to empower teachers, schools, and communities to incorporate native plants into the curriculum.

40.2    Native Teachings in the Garden

Rose Hammock (Redbud Resource Group, Santa Rosa, CA, Sonoma County; Tribal groups: Pomo, Wailacki, and Maidu; Tribal Affiliation: Enrolled Tribal Member with the Round Valley Indian Tribes)

Rose will be sharing her experience implementing California Native plants in a school garden in Windsor, CA. This was made possible with the collaboration between the Big Picture Learning Native American Initiative (BPLNAI), Windsor Oaks Academy, and North Bay Met Academy staff and students. Rose will be sharing photos and stories from her time spent with the students in the garden, from beginning to end. In her storytelling, Rose will share the importance of having a Native person teaching about traditional California Native plants, providing positive Native visibility and representation.

40.3    From Asphalt to Green Schoolyards: Lessons learned from San Francisco’s bond measures to include natural spaces in highly urbanized locations with multi-ethnic communities

Catherine Chang (Madrone Design Studio, Oakland, CA; University of San Francisco, CA, USA), Maru Echeverria (Madrone Design Studio, Oakland, CA, USA)

Many of the schoolyards within San Francisco have, over time, become almost 100% hardscape. To reverse this trend, SF voters passed a bond measure in 2006 and then again two more times in 2010 and 2014 as the first projects were wildly successful.  Conversion of hard pavement to green spaces is not as easy as jackhammering and disposing of construction debris. Many factors come into play, including careful consideration of infrastructure, design elements and building of stewardship with the school community area. With over 100 SF schools having gone through the process- seven of which we were the architects for, we have learned a number of important and helpful lessons in implementation that can inform others seeking to establish native gardens and natural play spaces at school sites.

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Giant Sequoia


Valley Oak


Moulton Niguel Water District

White Sage

H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants
East Bay Municipal Utility District

Melo Gardens

California Poppy

Westervelt Ecological Services

Carol Witham

Jepson Herbarium
Helix Environmental Planning