As the first-ever national gathering focused entirely on school gardening, the Growing School Gardens Summit was held in Denver, Colo., on April 22-25. More than 400 educators and leaders gathered to share innovations for thriving school gardens.
The School Nutrition Agri-Culture (SNAC) program’s executive director, Shandra Furtado, and SNAC founder Dr. Kim Furtado, N.D., presented to more than 50 attendees on April 23. The presentation, titled “Use it or Lose it: Maintaining Long-Term Garden Programming,” was based on their experience with serving the Indian River School District’s Southern Delaware School of the Arts since 2011.
The SNAC Program presented a roadmap for other programs to explore how they exist in the school ecosystem, and how to serve as an active tool for hands-on learning. Shandra Furtado also presented strategies to build an outdoor garden curriculum that will replace classroom time, rather than take away from it. Participants engaged in roundtable discussion to share their stories of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats regarding being a permanent part of the school community.
The summit was an exercise in sharing best practices, including those being modeled in the Indian River School District through the SNAC Program. “School garden practitioners and researchers agree: school gardens grow healthy kids, engaged learners, environmental stewards, and resilient, empowered youth.”
The School Nutrition Agri-Culture (SNAC) Foundation’s mission is “to transform Sussex County schoolyards into vibrant outdoor classrooms and thriving ecosystems where students of all backgrounds and ethnicities have equitable access to structured hands-on STEM learning and health education.”
The SNAC Foundation aims to provide equitable access to hands-on programming for every student served, so every child receives the same base level amount of time in the garden with a trained SNAC coordinator during the school day (12 to 16 lessons per year), rather than relying on variable input from teachers across the years. The SNAC Foundation is designed to improve children’s access to healthy food options, nutrition and STEM education, stress reduction opportunities, and provides safe outdoor learning environments. The common attributes of a SNAC Garden include an outdoor classroom, raised beds, spaces with a habitat-based approach.
The SNAC Garden Program currently serves 2,097 students each year, at three school locations within the Indian River School District (IRSD) in Sussex County. After 10 years of programming at Southern Delaware School of the Arts (SDSA), the SNAC Program expanded in 2021 to also serve North Georgetown Elementary and Long Neck Elementary Schools.