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Gardens Help Schools Get Higher Ratings

To launch our newest project, Design a School Garden with LAUSD (and We'll Build It!), we're publishing a series of pieces from stakeholders who have benefited from outdoor classrooms. Today, the executive director of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Bill Orr.

School gardens can bear many fruits. Not only do school gardens provide important opportunities to learn where your food comes from and how to grow it, but gardens can assist with the development of healthy eating habits that can stay with you for the rest of your life. Gardens can be made part of science and social studies lessons and promote alternatives to the use of pesticides and herbicides. School gardens can also be the site of school-wide composting programs. The fruits and vegetables grown can be incorporated into the school lunch program. School gardens can provide a break from the demands of the rest of the school day.

The Collaborative for High Performance Schools is dedicated to making schools a better place to learn by creating healthy and productive learning environments, saving energy and natural resources (which saves thousands of dollars), and reducing the environmental footprint of schools.

Now students at CHPS schools may have the opportunity to get dirt under their fingernails and learn gardening at school, thanks to changes in the CHPS Criteria. The CHPS Criteria is like a LEED rating system for schools—a flexible yardstick that precisely defines a high performance school. The criteria address site and materials selection, energy and water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and provides sustainable policies and innovations that can be adopted by schools and districts. Starting in 2009, schools in Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts, and California can now receive credits for having a school garden when they're being evaluated.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the first school district sign on with CHPS in 2001, already has an amazing 100 school gardens. However, with over 1000 schools in the district, there’s still a long way to go.

The world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright once wrote of schools: “The good life itself demands that the school be generously spaced and a thought-built good-time place for happy children...with some light overhead, the school building should regard the children as a garden in the sun."

Build and plant a school garden at your local school to nourish both our children’s bodies and their minds.

Check out our project: Design a School Garden with LAUSD (and We'll Build It!)

Bill Orr is executive director for the Collaborative for High Performance Schools

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