Sandburg Elementary families use Earth Day to triple their garden space

Sandberg Elementary School on Madison’s far East Side now has enough garden to go around. Some of the many families who helped out said that they had never volunteered at the school before. Read their story on Madison Commons or on Channel 3’s web site.

Many congratulations to them and to Melissa Gavin, GROW Coalition member, who organized the day.

Sandburg Elementary students pitch in on Earth Day to enlarge their garden space.


Hey, Teachers! Earn credit in the garden this summer!

“I feel better equipped to begin making gardening part of my classroom curriculum.” --Teacher participant
“By far, this was one of the most useful teacher classes I have taken . . . . I hope this class continues to educate teachers, for years to come.” --Teacher participant

Growing Minds: Garden-Based Learning from the Ground Up

Visit Community Groundworks’ site for full course information.

Dates: July 23-27 2012, 8 am-noon
Cost: $135*
Credit: 1-2 semester units of graduate credit available at additional cost of $60 per credit.
Place: Community GroundWorks Kids’ Garden at Troy Gardens (500 block of Troy Drive, near Warner Park)
Instructor: Nathan Larson, Education Director, Community GroundWorks

*A limited number of scholarships will be available and drawn in May from a lottery of registrants.

Description: This 5-day, 20-hour course is designed for K-12 teachers and community educators who are interested in building skills in the areas of youth garden education, development, and management. This course will emphasize an inquiry-based, hands-on approach to garden-based learning.

Course topics will include youth garden design and construction, funding and resources, recommended tools and equipment, organic gardening methods, cooking in an outdoor garden kitchen, garden-based nutrition, nature study and games, earth art, chickens in the garden, program evaluation, and the role of youth gardening in the sustainable agriculture movement.

Course instruction will take place outdoors in the award-winning Kids’ Garden at Troy Gardens. Please bring sunscreen, drinking water, and appropriate clothing for the weather (e.g., hats, sunglasses, rain jacket). Enrollment is limited to 22 educators.

Free Local Webinar, 7-8pm Tuesday, March 20: Getting Kids Outside!

How do you get kids excited for outdoor learning?

Join us next Tuesday, March 20, 7-8pm, from the comfort of home as we talk about what’s going on around Madison to get kids outside. With a special emphasis on youth gardening, we’ll hear from:

  • Megan Cain, Program Manager, Community Groundworks/Goodman Youth Grow Local Farm (formerly East High Farm);
  • David Ropa, Teacher, Spring Harbor Middle School
  • Mary Michaud, Parent, Van Hise Elementary School (GROW Coalition moderator)

This interactive webinar will offer some good visuals and opportunity for Q & A. (Caution: Bad puns may infest this event.)

For access to the webinar, you’ll need a computer with speakers. A microphone is not necessary but is useful. If you don’t have a mic, there will be an interactive keyboard chat option available.

Login as a “guest” here:

Many thanks to the Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute ( for hosting us on Adobe Connect!

Questions? Contact

GROW plan will come your way soon!

Members of the GROW Steering Group gathered on February 15th at the Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability to develop a three-year plan to support outdoor learning in Madison. Get ready, because we’re soon going to ask for members to review it!

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Using input gathered from individual and organizational members through online surveys and at meetings during 2011, the group is crafting a plan to:

  • link community members to outdoor learning resources;
  • support professional development so that educators can more effectively link outdoor learning to district standards; and
  • build a collective voice to impact educational policies and systems so that outdoor learning is integrated into the school day and after-school programming.

Ultimately, outdoor learning can lead to myriad results, where children:

  • increase physical activity;
  • engage in learning through hands-on, inquiry-based activities;
  • better understand where food comes from;
  • learn how to make healthy food choices;
  • decrease risk behavior through postive youth develolpment; and
  • learn how to integrate sensory experiences through sensory-rich learning.

At the same time, outdoor classrooms can engage a more diverse set of community members in the educational process, as families build capacity for more sustainable food and activity choices.

Clearly, these kinds of outcomes take time and coordinated efforts, and our plan will reflect that. But hey! That’s why we formed a coalition!

Look for an invitation to review and comment on the plan in the next couple of months! Your ideas matter!

Planning for spring?

Check out this resource page to jump-start your garden-based learning, and stay tuned for more information about offerings from the GROW Coalition. Remember–you can start with simple steps and grow from there. Just getting kids out to explore can help them engage more fully in learning.

For a great perspective on how to engage younger children in the outdoors, check out this article from Children, Youth and EnvironmentsTrees Talk: Are You Listening? Nature, Narrative and Children’s Anthropocentric Place-Based Play.

And this recent article from The Atlantic summarizes new findings about the benefits of play: Recreational Play can be Far More Important than Academics.


Help our teachers learn to teach in the garden!

Hey! We’re on Groupon!

Madison area teachers learn hands-on garden learning during "Growing Minds 2011," a week-long professional development course at Community Groundworks. UW credit is offered.

Thanks to Sustain Dane, we are raising funds to help defray the cost for Madison-area school teachers to participate in Community GroundWorks’ professional development course during Summer 2012. During the “Growing Minds” course, K-12 teachers learn how to teach in school gardens, incorporating garden-based learning into the curriculum.  For a better sense of the course, check out this photo montage of Growing Minds 2011.

To contribute to this campaign:

1.  Subscribe to Groupon ( in Madison  [it’s FREE, easy, and you can unsubscribe at any time!].

2.  Check the daily Groupon e-mail starting TODAY! to view our campaign, which will be featured along the right hand side of the main deal and under the list of daily deals.

3.  Support the campaign with a pledge and spread the word to friends and family, encouraging them to do the same.

Then look for news from us about making our target!

Are you feeling the need for free seeds?

The GROW Coalition and Friends present the CAC Open House Seed Party!

Pick-up free seeds for your community or school garden and get advice from members of the GROW Coalition as you plan for spring!  Feel free to spread the word and we hope to see YOU there.

Two dates!

Monday, January 30th from 6-8 pm
Saturday, February 4th from 10 am – 12 pm


Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin
1717 N. Stoughton Road
Madison, WI 53704

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Next GROW Gathering: December 5, 6-7:30pm, Open Mic Think Tank!

Join us for our Open Mic Think Tank night

When? Monday, December 5, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Where? Centro Hispano, Heroes Room, 810 West Badger Road

Join us for a fun-filled session where you’ll have the opportunity to learn about three or four outdoor learning projects and hear feedback from the group. We’ll kick off the Open Mic with Jim Reichling, Physics Teacher, LaFollette High School, who is starting to garden with his students. (Photos appear below.)  We’ll have time for two or three others to share their ideas and projects.  We hope you can come!

Many thanks to Centro Hispano for hosting us! Questions? Contact Rachel Martin,

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Join us for the next GROW Gathering!

When? Monday, October 17, 6 – 7:30 pm

Where? UW Arboretum Visitor Center (map)

Who? Educators, parents, teachers, professionals or youth interested in promoting outdoor learning

What? Come network, learn and problem-solve together. Get inspired as you hear how Centro Hispano engages youth in outdoor learning. Connect with colleagues to explore how to engage others in your work. Brainstorm themes for future meetings.

RSVP: Rachel Martin,