04/24/2012 08:09 am ET

Garden Collaborative Program To Offer Hands-On Agricultural Learning At 45 Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools system has experimented with using gardening in the lesson plans of individual schools for over a decade. Now, with the help of federal funding and the support of community groups, the district plans to make garden-based education available to students in 45 schools across the district.

A grant from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will give DPS the chance to create hands-on agricultural learning through what the district is calling a Garden Collaborative. The initiative will allow the district to plant new gardens at several schools and to supplement programs at sites where gardens already exist.

Each of the gardening locations will feature raised beds made of recycled timbers, compost bins, rainwater collection equipment, gravel walkways and a Farm to School Learning Center.

The program will help teach students about nutrition and increase school cafeterias' access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It will also allow teachers to incorporate the gardens into a wide range of subjects, from science to art to math.

“It's ideal when connections are made between the science curriculum and the real world through observations and inquiry, and a school garden is definitely a great location for students to have that experience," said Alycia Meriweather, head of the DPS Office of Science.

Meriweather said the new effort has been shaped by earlier garden-centered efforts at schools like O.W. Holmes Elementary-Middle School and Catherine Ferguson Academy.

"We saw learning by kids [who were] not normally engaged, engaged because of the context," she said. "We want kids all across the city to have that experience."

Meriweather said the district hopes to eventually include all the schools in the district in the program.

Flickr photo by West Baltimore Squares.