Get Started in the Garden with the CitySprouts Teacher Forum


Last fall CitySprouts launched the first series of the CitySprouts Teacher Forum, a collection of webinars that brings teachers together to share their work in school learning gardens. The Forum will be a cornerstone of the emerging community of practice surrounding garden-based learning. In late 2014, eleven CitySprouts partner teachers logged on to the Forum to present their work in the learning garden to the world. Among the very first presenters was Erica Pastor, fourth-grade teacher at Boston's Orchard Gardens Pilot School. Erica presented a lesson on integrating the garden with reading, writing, and social studies. Perhaps more importantly, however, she shared the story of her own journey as a garden teacher.

"The forum will inspire you!... you'll find out that teachers have started using the garden by just jumping in... You're still teaching what you need to teach but in a more effective and enjoyable way." --Erica Pastor, 4th-grade teacher, Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School

When CitySprouts first came to her school in 2012, Erica was hesitant about bringing her class into the new space. "I didn't know exactly how to connect the garden to what we were doing in class," she said. Now Erica is a garden champion, taking her class out to the garden at least once a week to enhance instruction in every subject. But the progress from garden novice to garden master didn't happen overnight. "I knew the garden was important, so over the past couple of years, I just committed to spending a little bit of time there with my students, even if they were just planting and helping to take care of it. Eventually, things started to make sense."

Erica spoke with candor about her initial hesitancy with the garden during the webinar's question-and-answer period. Her story prompted a volley of questions from webinar viewers, resulting in an engaging conversation among all the participants.

In the view of Holly Fowler, founder of Northbound Ventures and CitySprouts' consultant in designing the Teacher Forum, these interactive conversations are what make the webinars a success. According to Holly, the fall webinars were "dynamic" events where "teachers built on one another's ideas or quickly resolved unknowns with resources and lessons from their own experience in the garden." Holly is hopeful that the Teacher Forum will encourage other teachers to make the brave leap into garden-based learning that Erica made: "The community of practice offers teachers peer-to-peer exchange, a forum to share best practices and the possibility to innovate across discipline and grades," she said. "For newer teachers, this can accelerate their integration of the garden into curriculum and for experienced teachers, it can inspire fresh ideas."

You can view the entire fall series of the CitySprouts Teacher Forum -- including Erica's presentation -- in our Teacher Forum archive!