Gardening in Schools, Boarding Sites & Early Care Sites

Get Started with an On-Site Garden

Looking to start a new garden project? You’re in the right place for resources and tips on how to build a sustainable, educational, and empowering place for students. Check out the links below!

Getting Started: A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms, Life Lab

This comprehensive guide reviews how to built schoolwide support, select a site, and sustain the garden over time.

School Garden Wizard, The National Botanic Garden

A website to help you make the case for a school garden, plan for success, create your project, learn in the garden, and keep it growing!

A Taste of Gardening, University of Illinois Extension

Step by step basics on how to keep a garden flourishing.

My First Garden, University of IL Extension

This learning module is geared for 4th grade learners to help them explore the fundamental knowledge needed to grow a garden, then plan and execute their own project!

Garden-Based Lesson Plans

These resources are full of lesson plans for connecting what you’re growing to educational curriculum:

Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children’s love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.Curriculum for all grades is available on the website.

Fresh from the Farm, IFSN

Fresh from the Farm curricula are designed to engage children grades 1-8 in gardening, plant science, food system education, and overall wellness.

U of I Extension

University of Illinois Extension in Champaign has a variety of lesson plans from bulbs to pollinators to composting.

Growing Minds

Growing minds has many lesson plans geared at engaging early childhood.

Kids Gardening

Whether you want to study nutrition, soil, plants, pollinators, or garden creativity, there’s a lesson plan here for you.

Dig Deeper, Big Green

Big Green has garden curriculum for children in K-8 with their Garden Bites lessons, and for high school aged teens with their Real Food Lab.

What to Do: A School Garden Calendar

This school garden organizer contains month by month calendars and tips with growing lessons from the New York Botanical Garden.

Greenhouse Manual: A Guide for Educators

This manual is designed as an introduction for educators who are beginning to explore ways to incorporate a greenhouse as a hands-on learning environment for students of all ages. It offers information and resources both for teachers interested in establishing a new project, as well as for those who already have access to an existing greenhouse or hoop house.

Local Gardening Resources

Check out these resources for getting in touch with garden experts in your area, navigating the logistics of growing a garden, or connecting to much-needed people power:

Master Gardeners, U of I Extension

Partners at University of Illinois Extension offices are great partners for any Farm to School or garden program! They provide support in all of Illinois’ 102 counties. The Master Gardeners program has supported many school gardens in Illinois.

Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA)

For Chicago sites, AUA has resources for operating gardens within city codes and using compost. They also lead volunteer field days to help sites maintain or build their gardens.

Garden to Cafeteria Toolkit, Whole Kids Foundation

Slow Food USA, in partnership with Whole Kids Foundation, has developed a toolkit to help school district food services safely bring school garden produce onto the lunch line!

Garden Skills, Big Green

If you want to support a garden program but need to brush up on your gardening skills, check out this resource page.

Illinois Farm to School Learning Garden Map

Looking for a resource or fellow garden lover near you? Check out the list of gardens growing in Illinois on our interactive garden map! Are you on the map? If not, list your garden project and share your location with others!

Food Safety

Check out these resources on ensuring your garden produce aligns with food safety standards:

WSDA Farm to school

Best Practices for Food Safety in the School Garden provides a short list of points of concern for garden food safety practices and links to best practices.

Iowa State University Extension

Make Food Safety a Priority in Your Garden contains a 5-page toolkit with steps to ensure garden foods are safe to consume.The kit includes Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP).

USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Food Safety Tips for School Gardens is a 6-page guide with tips which lead to written practices for safe garden food management. This tool kit includes safety practices from choosing the garden site, to chemical usage, planting and harvest.

Illinois Garden Case Studies

Beautiful gardens are growing across the state! Check out the case studies below to get inspired. Do you have a garden story to share? Contact to be featured below!

In Madison County, students of the Farm to School Gardening Club at Lincoln Middle School rolled up their sleeves and built a garden! These proactive students educated themselves on the process of farming and became experts on a variety of agricultural plants.

Teachers stressed the importance of the students learning the entire process of how food ends up on their tables, starting with growing that food themselves from seed. The Gardening Club hopes to establish a selling relationship with a local market and are developing a curriculum to incorporate these lessons into other disciplines. Lincoln Middle School is doing a fantastic job of teaching students to appreciate the process of how food ends up on their plate! See photos here.

Students at Westmont High School in DuPage County, Illinois are growing food indoors and out! 

westmont hs garden hydroponic

Lisa Hootman, science teacher, manages the Westmont High School garden program Earth to School. Westmont has expanded their garden from 8 raised outdoor beds to 16. They added indoor hydroponics incorporating high school curriculum from biology, chemistry, environmental science, math, and business. In the fall, the school donates part of their harvest to the People’s Resource Center in Westmont. They also hold an autumn Farmer’s Market in conjunction with school athletic activities. The garden is truly year-round and also feeds the students in the form of classroom tastings, and on the lunch line! Lisa worked with a company called Root 66, based in Brookfield, to install the hydroponic garden. Westmont High School is doing great work teaching students how to grow and eat more veggies!