The Cultivating School Gardens Conference will be held online on July 20. The conference is designed to teach participants tools, techniques and new ideas to utilize gardening and natural learning environments in school classrooms and gardens.
The conference will be held on the Microsoft Teams meeting platform. Once registered, a link to join will be emailed several days before the event.
This event will offer seven hours of continuing professional education hours recognized by the Texas Education Agency.
“We are very excited about this school gardens conference, which brings together the basics of gardening, including where and what to plant, with the nuts and bolts of funding, curriculum and other resources,” said Ginger Easton Smith, AgriLife Extension agriculture and natural resources agent for Aransas County.
The event is organized and hosted by a multi-county panel of AgriLife Extension agents and specialists. The virtual workshop will provide educators the necessary information for starting a youth or school garden. It will cover preparation, support, planting and care, and success stories.
“It is being presented virtually to make it available statewide since there is such an interest in gardening,” she said.
At the conclusion of the conference, door prizes will be awarded and participants will learn how to access limited-time videos.
The conference will begin with an overview of the day’s event as well as key information participants will need to know.
The keynote speaker is Charlie Hall, Ph.D., professor and Ellison Chair in the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences, Bryan-College Station. He will present “Benefits of Plants for Youth Education and Well-Being.”
He will cover the growing mountain of research, which continues to document the specific benefits a connection with plants and nature provides for youth learning and testing success, emotional and mental health, social life skills and more.
Tracks and speakers
The first track will cover garden preparation, installation, maintenance, planting and harvest. The second track explores volunteers, funding, partnerships, curricula and successful school gardens.
The first track is “Hands in the Dirt: Garden How-To.” Topics and speakers are as follows:
- Location and Design Options — William Isbell, Harris County Master Gardener.
- Get Growing! Soil, Seeds and Plants — Skip Richter, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Brazos County.
- Vegetables for Fall and Spring Gardens — Smith.
- Just Add Water: Irrigation Considerations — Boone Holladay, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Fort Bend County.
- Good Guys in the Garden: Knowing and Attracting Beneficial Insects — Paul Winski, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Harris County.
- Planning a Well-Tended Garden — Stephen Brueggerhoff, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Galveston County.
Track 2’s focus is “Administration and Support: Funding, Resource Development and Curricula.” Topics and speakers are as follows:
- Building a Supportive Team: Partners and Partnerships — Brandi Keller, AgriLife Extension horticulturist, Harris County.
- Student Management in the Garden — Martha McLeod, Fulton Learning Center science teacher, Aransas County.
- Strategies for Funding Your Garden — Randy Seagraves, AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist, Bryan-College Station.
- STEM and Literature in the Garden — Lisa Whittlesey, AgriLife Extension program specialist and international coordinator for the Junior Master Gardener Program, Bryan-College Station.
- Success Stories from School Gardens — Garden tours of several school gardens with speakers discussing their garden successes and how they overcame challenges.
- Health and Wellness: The Nutrition Connection — speakers will include Caren Walton, AgriLife Extension horticultural program specialist, and Learn, Grow, Eat and Go! program team members.