Teacher Spotlight: Cynthia Schafe of Columbia Elementary

Interview with Cynthia Schafe, _____ teacher at Columbia Elementary in St. Louis, MO., about how she personally became involved with the school’s garden. 


How long have you been gardening?

With the students this is my fifth year, however, I have been gardening for about 40 years on my own.


How did you get started with gardening at school?

I was told the garden was back there so we started using it with the kindergarteners at first and then just continued on.


What is the most worthwhile part of school gardening?

The kids love to be outside and it gives them a good educational reason to be outside. They love to discover all the worms and new plants.


What is your favorite thing to plant with your students at Columbia Elementary?

I like to plant potatoes because of how surprised the students are when they start pulling them out of the ground. “It’s like digging for buried treasure!”


What do teachers need the most in order to use a school garden successfully?

Time and for someone to show them how. And someone to convince them that it’s okay to mess up in the garden.


What are you excited to try/do this coming growing season?

Sweet potatoes for next year.


What is your biggest garden challenge at Columbia Elementary right now?

We need a sturdier fence to protect our garden.



Interview with Cynthia Schafe conducted by Allison Berndt, Education Intern at Gateway Greening in Fall of 2017.



Looking for more ways to incorporate the school garden into your lesson plans? Stop by:

  • Gateway Greening’s Youth Garden Institute 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.