Community Writing and Community Gardens

Promoting Ecological Community Literacies Via Permaculture



The National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference

The 2018 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference was held in Portland, Maine, which gave me the opportunity to create a workshop about teaching writing in school gardens. About twenty K-12 teachers participated- including ELA teachers, garden educators, special education teachers, and nutritionists. This slideshow provides an overview of the presentation about the benefits of teaching writing in school gardens and an overview of a writing workshops rooted in the gardening cycle of creating soil health, cultivating seedlings, transplanting, harvesting, cooking, and eating. This handout has more details about the writing workshop. We concluded by applying principles of permaculture to backward design to create both/and assignment sequences, as detailed here.

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In retrospect, I probably tried to do too much in just an hour, so next time I am going to try to plan a three day workshop. Who wants to collaborate?

Community Writing + Community Gardens

This spring, I taught a short term class at Bates College on the topic of community writing and community gardens. Here is the syllabus. Below, please find the course description:

In this class, students will study and practice community literacy by reviewing literature about school and community gardens;  by reading education research; by engaging in creative writing workshops; by taking field trips to schools, gardens, and farms; by developing and conducting workshops in Lewiston/Auburn community gardens, and by drafting reports about next steps for community literacy projects in area gardens, including a study of sites on campus for garden-based learning. The course will culminate with a celebration of community literacy that will include work written by Bates students and local K-12 students and a community meal of local food. Bates students will form teams to complete projects about opportunities for garden-based learning on campus, about opportunities for writing in community/school gardens in Lewiston, or about other topics that emerge from our work.

We were very, very busy, taking field trips and gardening, meeting community members of all ages, reading about education and agriculture, working on our own writing in various genres, researching garden-based education and writing pedagogy, and developing curricular materials that integrated writing with garden-based education–all over a six week period. Every week, we spent a couple of hours with third through sixth graders at the Geiger School in Lewiston, in a cooking and gardening after school program. We learned so much and I am so grateful to my students and  our community partners:

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Maine School Garden Day

Save the date!

Saturday, April 28th is the 9th Annual Maine School Garden Day. from 8am-4:30pm at the Maine Academy of Natural Science- Skowhegan Road, Hinckley, Maine 04944.

  • Learn about gardening and garden-based education!
  • Share your ideas and experiences!
  • Eat good food!
  • Connect with the school garden community!




Grow Food/Appetite for Change

Appetite for Change promotes health, wealth, and empowerment via understanding of food systems. Participants in their Summer 2016 Youth Employment and Training Program created this video. Listen and see if you can stop chanting “grow food when it’s over.

I learned of Appetite for Change via the Farm-to-School Network.

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Do you know of other projects that use food and gardens as avenues for youth empowerment? Please share and I’ll create a post with the collected resources.



Read ME Deadline January 1, 2018

Maine Ag in the Classroom supports agricultural literacy in many, many ways, including their Read ME program, which includes free books, connections to farmers who will make classroom visits, and curricular materials. The deadline to apply for this program, which runs in March, is January 1. Not in Maine? Find your local chapter of Ag in the Classroom organization here.

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Schoolyard Habitats

Schoolyard habitats are another way to integrate outdoor experiences into the school day. Like school gardens, schoolyard habitats provide deliberately crafted outdoor spaces that offer opportunities for experiential education and that promote ecological balance. Unlike school gardens, schoolyards habitats require little maintenance once established. rather than providing food for humans, they provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for wildlife. If your school is resisting the commitment to a school garden because of the  of time and money, perhaps they will consider a schoolyard habitat? Perhaps we can integrate wildlife habitats, fruit trees, and community gardens into other public spaces?

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International Institute for Educational Planning of the UN

This report from 2004 offers global perspectives on best practices for garden based learning.

School gardens build community

According to Erasmus Schwab, writing in Austria in the 1870s, school gardens solve the problem of the gap between urban schools with financial resources and rural schools with less financial resources by directing study to nature–our home–which teaches children to value community.


Support for school gardens from all corners, 1870s, Austria and Germany


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