The CitySprouts mission is to develop, implement and maintain beautiful, resource-rich school gardens in collaboration with public school communities. Integrated into the curriculum, CitySprouts gardens inspire teachers, students, and families with a deep, hands-on connection to the food cycle, sustainable agriculture, and the natural environment.
CitySprouts began in 2001 when a small group of parents, a teacher and a school principal formed a school garden program in two Cambridge schools. They were motivated by a shared concern about children growing up hungry for hands-on learning, ignorant of where their food comes from and with too few opportunities to really know their natural environment.
CitySprouts founders were motivated by the vision of gardens in urban, high-need schools that grew food as well as perennial flowers. With natural habitats that invited children to explore nature, including their food system. In an era of increasing disease caused by poor diet, especially for children in under-resourced communities, they saw school gardens as an effective means to set children on a path toward life-long healthy food choices.
They knew that these kinds of experiences also engage children in learning that is critical to success: writing, reading, science and math skills. This has remained a cornerstone of the CitySprouts model: supporting and engaging teachers use of the school garden for their students.
Since 2001, CitySprouts program has expanded to serve every elementary school in Cambridge Public Schools and schools in Boston as well. In 2007, CitySprouts began a summer program for middle school-aged youth. In 2015, that program was extended throughout the school year as an after school program with a focus on science, engineering and growing food.
Today CitySprouts is part of the emerging 21st-century school garden movement. As Director Jane Hirschi describes in her book, Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools (Harvard Education Press 2015), new program models around the country are collecting evidence of the impact of garden-based learning and exploring how to make it part of every child’s experience.
Ripe for Change
Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools, by CitySprouts Executive Director Jane Hirschi, reveals a wealth of resources to show how garden-based learning is being implemented in a systematic way in public education, and offers next steps to widen and deepen the practice to reach children in all schools. Taking a big-picture view of the school garden movement and the state of garden-based learning in public K-8 education, the book frames the garden movement for educators and shows how school gardens have the potential to be a significant resource for teaching and learning.