School gardens offer many benefits to teacher, students, and communities. As outdoor classrooms providing alternative learning, school gardens increase educational equity, giving all children opportunities to excel. Gardens give children access to the outdoors and are linked to improved academic achievement and healthy eating habits.
Naples Botanical Garden’s Collier Greens program is a network that supports local school and community gardens. Collier Greens offers professional development opportunities; fosters dialog among school garden professionals; assists with garden development; and provides technical garden support, curriculum resources, and other materials from workshops.
In the fall of 2002, Naples Botanical Garden partnered with Avalon Elementary, Windstar Audubon Committee, and the East Naples community on the beginning stages of the Global Garden. The purpose of the program was to improve student performance while also encouraging family and community involvement, which over the last nine years it has accomplished and expanded upon.
The resulting Global Garden brought members of the community and school together to create an incredible hands-on learning experience for students.
In 2011 and again in 2013, the Global Garden project at Avalon Elementary was awarded first place in the Multiple Class Garden category for this year’s University of Florida (UF) Environmental Horticulture Department’s School Garden Competition.
“The Global Garden is an extraordinary place that serves as not only a living and breathing classroom, but that holds the footprints of former students, mentors and supporters of its vision,” said Patricia Thorsen, a teacher at Avalon Elementary. “The garden has provided an education that is priceless to the students and families of this community.”