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Garden Program Proposal 2023/2024

Organizer: Caroline Sykes (4th grade teacher) and Laura Westwood (parent)

Proposal: Fund a garden program for all students for the 2023-24 school year through a partnership with Grow Portland

Estimated Costs: The cost of partnering with Grow Portland is about $15,000 for the entire school year, or $60/student. 

Objectives and Considerations:  

Irvington students and teachers have had varying degrees of involvement with the school garden over the years. During the pandemic, community members rented out all of the school garden plots. Now that students are back in the classroom, this is the perfect opportunity to re-engage students and teachers with the garden, a currently untapped resource at our disposal. There are more than enough garden plots that we can continue to provide some to the community and have ones for the classrooms.

Luckily, there is a nonprofit in Portland, Grow Portland, that partners with local schools to bring hands-on garden experiences to all students that foster connections to food, nature, and each other. Grow Portland is dedicated to providing access to affordable environmental and food justice education for all students. They work with the teachers, PTA, students, cafeteria staff, and school administrators in hopefully multi-year relationships. This seems like a win-win partnership because it takes the pressure off of teachers to figure out adding this curriculum to their classrooms on their own, provides every single student at Irvington with a new hands-on, rich, engaging program, and builds a new community relationship with a local nonprofit. Irvington teachers have already approved the partnership, as has the school administration.

Grow Portland offers:

  • Serve all K-5 classrooms, inclusive of SPED-specific classes, with at least one 45-min monthly lesson for each classroom.
  • Curriculum supports teachers in meeting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core learning objectives.
  • Age-specific curriculum themes include soil science, basic botany, water conservation, food systems, pollination, and ecology with an emphasis on exploration and hands-on gardening.
  • Cafeteria connections; harvests going directory to schools and distributed to families.

What is included?

  • 45 minutes of education for each class/month by professional Garden Educators.
  • Garden and teaching supplies for programming (trowels, seeds, plants, clipboards, picture books, scavenger hunts).
  • Staff supervision, support, and curriculum development.
  • Educator professional development on equity, inclusion, and outdoor teaching pedagogy.
  • Harvests given to cafeteria.
  • Additional staff time to coordinate harvest, garden maintenance, administrative communication with schools, community outreach events such as work parties, etc.
  • Program evaluations soliciting feedback from principals, teachers, and students.
  • Administration of contracts, supplemental funding, and program coordination.

We believe that school gardens are an amazing classroom tool with endless benefits for students that will extend beyond the classroom and long into their adult lives. 

Grow Portland surveyed all of the teachers at the end of 2021-22 school year:

  • 95% of teacher respondents thought that Garden School “connected students to environmental science concepts that supported classroom learning”.
  • 94% of teacher respondents felt that Garden School “supported students in developing tangible science skills such as making meaning of real-world observations, making connections between cause and effect, ability to theorize, and critical thinking.” 
  • 94% of teachers felt that Garden School provided their students with “an opportunity to practice and demonstrate understanding of basic gardening skills such as planting seeds, harvesting, weeding, and watering.” 
  • 95% of teacher respondents felt that Garden School “promotes enthusiasm towards learning and fosters an engaging school environment.”
  • 95% of teacher respondents felt that Garden School “encourages understanding of and respect for the natural world.


  Student reflections included:

  • 65% of students reported trying a new vegetable in the garden this year.
  • 89% of students think gardens are important.
  • 93% of students love being outside.
  • 92% of students said they know how to plant a seed.
  • 90% of students said that Garden School taught them something new about Nature.

Financial Implications:  

The $15,000 will be deducted from our estimated operating budget of $172,000, an expense of 8.7% of the budget. We propose that this is an excellent use of spending down our reserve funds.


Grow Portland takes payment in two installments, one in September and one in January.