Assembling a motivated, committed school garden team can be the key to building a garden that endures for years. This team should consist of a core group that will be the most active participants in planning as well as others who may play an important but more peripheral role, or who may address some of the diverse constituency of learners who will be using the garden.

We recommend a minimum of six people to form the core of the team.

Six key roles

1: The Facilitator/Principal will:
  • Participate in planning, enlist and motivate the school engineer and other key staff
  • Approve events and activities of the team (which may include release time for teacher training)
  • Enlist support of the community and parent organizations
  • Help with fundraising
  • Handle other leadership responsibilities with respect to the garden
Tip: The Principal or Vice Principal need not play as active a role in gardening as teachers and other school members, but they should be “on board” to support the idea and key needs.

2: Garden Coordinator will:
  • Oversee issues relating to the physical garden (as opposed to the curriculum)
  • Work closely with the school principal in establishing the school’s core team
  • Organize regular meetings with the team
  • Take the lead for making plans
Tip: It is helpful if this person has gardening experience. This may be a teacher or parent who is a gardener, and who has time available to dedicate energy to make calls, recruit help, find and order supplies, etc.

3. Planting Day Leader will:
  • Work ahead of time to promote pre-planting activities such as getting seeds started in classrooms and training staff for the planting day
  • Secure access to a water source and tools, and work out a planting schedule for the school
Tip: Planting Day is a large-scale event and requires one person to take charge of coordinating the day’s activities. Experience has shown that delegating this job to another individual eases the burden on the Coordinator and Principal. This is an ideal job for someone who can be involved heavily, but for only a short time, as it is a specific event-oriented responsibility. (If there is to be an annual planting day in subsequent years, then the position can rotate to include a new individual every year.)

4. Resource Leader will:
  • Collect, store, and distribute educational resource materials that will help teachers make use of the garden
  • Write articles when the school wants to publicize the project in school newsletters, local papers, or other outlets
Tip: Librarians make excellent Resource Leaders. Additionally, enthusiastic parent volunteers could take this role or work closely with this individual to form a subcommittee for School Garden Education Resources.

5. The Parent-Teacher Liaison will:
  • Keep the school’s PTA, PTO, and/or Local School Council informed of the garden’s progress and events
  • Recruit parents and members of the community to assist with the garden by volunteering with labor or contributing money or supplies
Tip: This should be a person who is knowledgeable about the garden, and who is also comfortable speaking before groups.

6. Fundraiser/PR Leader will:
  • Seek additional funds to sustain the garden.
  • Seek sources of funding from local, state, and national agencies
  • Work closely with the Principal and assume the lead role in publicizing garden successes in terms of soliciting and securing funds
Tip: Securing funds might begin with seeking donations or in-kind support from neighborhood businesses and organizing a school fundraiser.

See Getting Funds and Supplies for more information about this role.

Tips for forming a great team
  • Most of the team members will probably be teachers from the school, but the team will be stronger and have a better chance of surviving if it also includes people from other areas of the school community.
  • The team might include other school staff such as librarians, resource teachers, maintenance staff, administrative staff, and cafeteria staff. Each of these professionals brings a different expertise and perspective to the project.
  • The students themselves will have valuable ideas to offer, so having student representatives on the team is an asset.
  • Neighbors and other community members might also have time, ideas, and resources to contribute as team members. Parents, especially, should be recruited for involvement. They are already members of the school’s neighborhood and community and have a strong vested interest in the success of the school’s garden, that is, the enhancement of their child’s education! At-home parents can be good sources of help, as they may have flexible schedules that allow them to make phones calls, gather resources, and generate ideas that classroom teachers haven’t the time to do.
Include Specialty Teachers
  • Computer/tech teachers can help connect the curriculum to technology and plant research through the Internet.
  • Physical education teachers can connect the garden to physical activity, stress relief, stretching, and exercise as well as safe lifting and digging.
  • School nurses or dieticians can help create a nutritional emphasis on gardens that include vegetables and herbs.
Include Special Needs Teachers
Gardens are wonderfully flexible learning environments and can be used effectively for learners of diverse abilities. Special needs teachers can help ensure that the garden design will accommodate unique needs such as the use of wheelchairs or walkers. They can also ensure that the design includes a wide range of learning opportunities for everyone.

And remember…
  • A school’s core team may consist of additional members who share leadership and responsibility for the jobs described above. Other participants may be involved in a supporting rather than leading capacity.
  • All team members should attend their own garden team meetings and teacher training sessions, work actively with students during planting days, and take responsibility for overseeing maintenance of the garden during the school year and summer.