Interview with Shannon Flanders, kindergarten teacher at Mallinckrodt Academy in St. Louis, MO, about how she personally became involved with the school’s garden.
How did you get started with gardening at school?
I started as a parent when garden beds were installed at Mallinckrodt. When I became a teacher, I started working with Miss Meg, the Gateway Greening Youth Educator immediately.
What is most worthwhile part of school gardening?
The most worthwhile part is being outside. We use the garden as an outdoor classroom where we get hands-on experiences, watch cycles of nature and the kids are able to get dirty.
What is your favorite thing to plant with your students?
We made greenhouses for lima beans in plastic bags in the classroom. The students observed and recorded the growth of the plants. It wasn’t something mysterious, happening underground. Being able to observe the process of growth made the topic more concrete for them and tied together a lot of experiences they will have out in the garden.
What do teachers need the most in order use a school garden successfully?
Time in the day, the desire to get outside and get their hands dirty, and the willingness to learn.
I am not a great gardener. I actually have a giant brown thumb. So the garden is an opportunity to model not being good at something but not being intimidated and still getting out there and trying, having a good time.
What is your best garden story?
We were preparing the beds for winter, everyone had their hands in the soil and each child ended up with a worm in their hands. The students were so dirty; they had dirty hands, dirty faces, and dirty clothes. But they were laughing and working together and having a great time.
What are you excited to try/do this coming growing season?
We are watching the fruit trees that are in the orchard. They’re blooming now and when school starts back in the fall, there will be fruit for the students to harvest. I love teaching about cycles and patterns in nature, and the garden and trees at school are perfect for observation.
What are your favorite garden-themed books?
Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
A Place to Grow by Soyung Pak
Interview with Shannon Flanders conducted by Kathleen Carson, Gateway Greening Education Manager, in April 2017.
Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plan? Stop by:
- Gateway Greening’s Workshops for Educators page to explore monthly workshops that address the challenges and opportunities represented by teaching in school gardens
- The Gateway Greening Educators Facebook group to connect with other teachers throughout St. Louis with similar interests in school gardens
- Check out our In the School Garden Youtube playlist for short, actionable how-to videos that are seasonally relevant.