2023 School Garden Contest Results

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture and Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Team are excited to announce the 2023 Statewide School Garden Contest results!

Congratulations to the following category winners:

Best Overall School Garden

Congratulations to Positive Tomorrows School for winning the Best Overall School Garden Category!

At Positive Tomorrows School, education is the key to ending the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Positive Tomorrows is Oklahoma’s only elementary school and social service agency specifically for children and families experiencing homelessness.

Defined by a decorative picket fence, the Positive Tomorrows school gardens’ main focus is to teach the joy of gardening, from planning to harvest, to all students. “Garden Club,” as they call it, is a one-semester garden and is considered an extra-curricular after-school activity. Their garden includes five raised planting beds, where students plant and grow potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, bok choy, lettuce, and radishes, in the spring semester, along with carrots, peas, radishes, beets, turnips, bok choy, lettuce, Swiss chard, and kale, in the fall semester.

The garden also houses a large composting area, benches, and a garden shed used for storage. The garden lesson plan consists of six lessons covering the characteristics of healthy soil, seeds and germination, seedlings, what plants need to grow, and pollinators. The 6th and final lesson includes a synopsis of what the students did in the garden that semester, successes and failures, along with a nutrition review. Each lesson in the curriculum emphasizes ways to garden with the least negative impact on the environment, emphasizing the positive impact bugs and worms have on the soil.

Positive Tomorrows has partnered with the Oklahoma County Master Gardener Program to help enhance the gardening curriculum as well as serve as a caring adult to students. The Master Gardeners provide a garden plan at the beginning of each semester as well as garden supplies such as soil, compost, fertilizer, seeds, tools, and equipment for the students. Because their garden must grow from seed to harvest in around 70 days (one semester) the Master Gardeners do the planning with appropriate plants for the garden conditions. The students do the cultivation, planting, and learn how to properly care for the plants.

Positive Tomorrows School received a $1,000 award to help with future garden projects.

Best Startup Garden

Congratulations to Maysville Elementary School for winning the Best Startup Garden Category!

During the 2023-2024 school year, the 6th graders at Maysville Elementary School committed to creating a garden program, complete with a greenhouse. The 6th grade class has been given a special class period that is devoted to the school garden where they are learning everything from soil science to nutrition. This 6th-grade class is responsible for the daily maintenance of the garden, while also teaching the PreK through 5th graders about the garden. Their goal is to have all students, Pre-K through 6th grade, play a role in the school garden, whether that be in the planting of seeds or harvesting the produce.

The Maysville Elementary School cafeteria staff currently serves locally sourced meat and produce through the Local Food for Schools grant program and is excited to partner with the students on this project. They plan to host taste tests utilizing what the students have grown in the greenhouse to help encourage students to consume more fruits and vegetables. The cafeteria staff has also been helping them make decisions about what they should grow so that students will be able to eat their own produce every day. If they reach a production level that cannot be sustained in the cafeteria, the students plan to donate the excess produce to their local senior citizens center or local food pantry. This will be an added community connection for the students.

Maysville Elementary School
Maysville Elementary School received a $500 award to help with future garden projects.

Best Education Based Garden:

Congratulations to Eugene Field Elementary School for winning the Best Education Garden Category!

The Eugene Field Garden is a student-led space established in 2007, where students worked alongside Global Garden Educators, school administrators, and teachers to help plan and create a garden that enables students to participate in hands-on projects that promote curiosity and learning engagement. By participating in school garden activities, students learn the importance of caring for the environment, learn how different elements of the garden ecosystem work together to create healthy soil that helps plants grow and generates a natural enthusiasm for eating what they grew and sharing it with others.

The garden at Eugene Field is unique in that every class has its own garden plot where students have the freedom to design, plant, harvest, and even decorate the space with their very own artwork. Every student in the school learns the basics of gardening and has at least two seed-to-plate experiences (fall and spring), plus a variety of tasting opportunities. Students prepare their harvest meal themselves, often experimenting with different recipes and seasonings. The entire school participates in managing the garden’s compost system, using food scraps from the cafeteria and classrooms.

Global Garden Educators make weekly visits to the school and are partnered with teachers to ensure the garden is being used to address science standards for PreK to 5th grade. For grades 3-5, Global Gardens conducts a garden-focused science fair through which groups of students test hypotheses and present their results to community “judges.”

Eugene Field has also created an after-school program giving students more opportunities to build confidence and empowerment related to the garden. During the summer months, 30 students in the 3rd to 5th grades have the opportunity to earn their own individual garden plots and choose what they would like to grow. In this way, the garden becomes a vehicle for personal growth, self-expression, and the development of life skills. As students learn that they can create changes in their gardens, they begin to think about other ways they can create change in their lives and community.

Eugene Field School
Eugene Field received a $500 award to help with future garden projects.

Best Harvest Partnership School Garden

Congratulations to Redbud Farm School for winning the Best Harvest Partnership School Garden Category!

At Redbud Farm School, the enduring presence of the gardens is not just a priority; it’s an integral part of the school’s culture and educational philosophy. The school garden is an integral part of the daily curriculum, providing a living classroom where students actively engage with core subjects such as math, environmental stewardship, problem-solving, and healthy living. This school is particular to include their students in all aspects of the garden, from design and development to watering and harvesting.

Redbud Farm School believes that the best way to educate students about the goodness of garden-fresh produce is to let them experience it firsthand. The students can taste the fruits and vegetables of their labor by sampling all the produce and herbs they cultivate. This promotes healthy eating and connects them to the joys of growing their food. Activities such as taste tests expose students to various garden items, they might not typically encounter at the grocery store. Last year, their favorites included lemon cucumbers, eggplant, and green peppers.

Students are also encouraged to take home garden items, providing families with fresh, nutritious meal ingredients. This practice reinforces the importance of wholesome eating within the students’ households and strengthens the connection between school and home.

Redbud Farm School even has an on-campus farmer’s market that is sponsored by the 3rd-6th grade students. This provides students with fresh, seasonal ingredients and educates them about the importance of supporting local agriculture and reducing the carbon footprint associated with food transportation.

With an established Garden Committee comprised of the entire student body, teachers, and enthusiastic volunteers, Redbud School can ensure that the garden thrives year after year, becoming an inseparable aspect of the educational experience.

Redbud Farm School
Redbud Farm School received a $500 award to help with future garden projects.

Best Community Collaboration School Garden:

Congratulations to Oologah-Talala Lower Elementary School for winning the Best Community Collaboration School Garden Category

At Oologah-Talala Lower Elementary School, the success of the school garden is due to the many partnerships that have been established over the past year. The garden takes a village to maintain, so the school decided to bring all hands-on deck to help create and maintain a beautiful and thriving school garden. Recently the school established a garden committee to help with establishing summer watering schedules, and maintenance, as well as planning special events such as Earth Day. The local FFA horticulture class, along with the volleyball team help pull weeds and apply mulch. The Rodgers County Master Gardeners have been utilized as guest speakers during class gardening sessions. The school has even received many donations from the local nursery and farmers from around the community.

Education is key when it comes to the Oologah-Talala school garden. Every week students are required to attend STEM Class where they learn all about the garden, from seed germination to soil health, along with learning the best ways to winterize the garden. Being that this school has a big Native American population, the students learn about the history of their ancestors and plant the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Students also learn the importance of nutrition and how the fresh food they grow in their garden helps fuel their bodies.

The student’s favorite part about the garden is being able to smell the freshly grown herbs, along with harvesting and tasting what they grew. Along with in-class taste testing, the cafeteria staff was able to serve students watermelon from the school garden. The kids loved how it tasted and were even more excited since they grew it themselves.

Oologah School
Oologah-Talala Lower Elementary School received a $500 award to help with future garden projects.