It has been a big year for youth education at Denver Urban Gardens! We continue to believe that the lessons offered in a garden are life changing for children of all backgrounds.

Through our programs and resources for young people, students experience the wonders of a garden with opportunities for hands-on lessons in: health, earth and life sciences, math, literacy, social science and community building. Read on to see what’s new with DUG’s Youth Education as we head into the new year!

Growing Gardeners Initiative

DUG aspires to provide children with experiences in community gardens that cultivate a sense of wonder, awe, and appreciation. 

Through DUG’s youth education programs, we have created a long-term initiative called Growing Gardeners, with the intent of designing programming for children at key points in their development, providing memorable and meaningful experiences for youth in the garden. We see DUG gardens as a place for children, especially young ones, to learn about the interconnections of nature in real-time, with kids getting dirty digging in the dirt and being outside for health and well-being. Gardens provide places for unstructured, experiential, sensory – based learning that involve children holistically in their education process, allowing them to view learning as a cycle, deepening their roots of understanding.

For older children and teens, the garden is a place to experience the value of living in community and to further establish life-long habits eating healthy foods. Teens have the opportunity to build skills that lead to future employment and to deepen their understanding of where our food comes from and the injustices within our systems when it comes to accessing healthy food. Teenagers discover that there is value to nature – based exploration beyond what can be gained indoors on their electronic devices.

DUG is working with Centrality Reearch, a community-centric organization, to evaluate our efforts as we develop relevant and meaningful programs for our youth audiences.Some key partners that have made this project possible include Denver Public Schools (DPS), PEBC, Catholic Charities, Clayton Early Learning, and the Colorado ECE to Farm Coalition. Funding for this initiative is being supported this year by grant funds from the City and County of Denver Healthy Food for Denver’s Kids Initiative, USDA, and the DPS Foundation of Denver Public Schools.

Teacher Training Cohort

For the 2021-2022 school year, DUG is also collaborating with a cohort of twelve teachers from elementary schools in Denver Public Schools within DUG’s school-based community garden network: Fairview, Goldrick, Maxwell, Sabin, and Escuela Valdez.

The year started with a kick-off workshop in September, developed in partnership with PEBC, a national leader in teacher professional development, and focused on addressing this question:  In what ways might we engage learners in garden-based science that grows their identities as scientists and invites them to inquire?

DUG is meeting with these dedicated teachers monthly throughout the school year, and the action research consists of implementing strategies to improve their teaching practice, in particular in science teaching while also utilizing the garden as an outdoor learning space. With this sharing of ideas and resources, our intention is to help teachers be more comfortable with teaching outdoors, using the garden as a space for learning especially when it comes to teaching science. 

Cooking Classes with Slow Food Denver

In partnership with Slow Food Denver, DUG is supporting students in upper elementary grades with cooking classes. During the height of the pandemic, these classes were offered to students virtually, and the students learned how to cook meals in their homes, often cooking with their parents and caretakers. These classes have continued into this school year with face-to-face classes. With the support of HFDK funds, DUG was able to support 186 students, providing 1,456 meals.

Farmer Dave Video Series

In the digital realm, we’ve partnered with Farmer Dave and Friends and PBS12 to release a series of educational videos about botanical learning. These videos range from how DUG uses rainwater in our gardens to making friends and singing garden songs.

Summer Teen Interns

Through a partnership with Groundwork Denver, DUG hosted 7 high school interns working in DUG gardens this summer.. These local teens pulled weeds, planted, watered, and composted in 9 of the 12 gardens in their own neighborhood.  To supplement their learning, DUG hosted sessions for the students in cooking, creative writing, video production, a garden tour at Mental Health Center of Denver, and a special cooking class with DJ Cavem.

Intern Spotlight: Meet Ty Scott

Ty Scott grew up in the Sun Valley neighborhood and attended Fairview Elementary, the home of DUG’s oldest school-based community garden. Recently, Ty, now 17 years old, reconnected with Senior Education Specialist, Judy Elliott, remembering the classes Judy used to teach at Fairview when Ty was a child. This summer, DUG hired Ty to work in the Fairview garden, tending to several plots for the past six months and learning how to garden with Judy. Ty is passionate about growing plants and the importance of eating healthy. He’s a student at the Academy of Urban Learning in Denver and currently works at the new Decatur Fresh Market in Sun Valley. Ty is also featured in a new video series DUG is supporting that features Farmer Dave on PBS.

Vermicomposting Classes

Master Composter Luz Croghan is taking her skills in composting into the classroom for DUG, running programs for kids ages 3-5 at our partnering schools. Students are able to learn about vermicomposting, getting an up close and personal look at red wiggler worms and how compost is made. As part of these classes, teachers also have the opportunity to get their own worm bin to start composting at their school.  Luz offers the program in English or Spanish.  For more information, contact us at programs@dug.org

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