4 Ways to Fund Staffing for School Garden Programs

image2By Diane Sikkens

Most of the schools in our network have received a mini-grant and/or donations to start a garden or even attended a training to incorporate a garden-based curriculum, but striving for programmatic sustainability can be a challenge. Typically, this requires a dedicated teacher or garden coordinator to tend to the garden, ensure a vision is developed, and follow a plan for successful school garden management, both physical and programmatic.

Unfortunately, most grants don’t fund teachers or garden staff. Below are 4 ways schools on Kaua‘i and throughout the state have been able to fund garden teachers. Have more to add? Comment on our Kaua‘i School Garden Network Facebook Group.

  • PTSA – Sponsored Position

Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) often play crucial roles in organizing and promoting income-generating events for schools to supplement a tight budget. In some schools, PTSA events are so successful that they support the elective teachers salaries. For over 10 years Hanalei Elementary School has been eliciting recyclable donations to fuel their HI-5 Recycling Program hosted by their PTSA. Revenue generated from the recycling program and various annual fundraisers go to fund teacher salaries and supplies for special elective classes like art, physical education, music, drama and garden classes; classes which are not normally budgeted in for the year.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Hanalei El collected over 12,000 pounds of recyclable rubbish- glass, plastic, aluminum, and metal. Missy, the PTSA head of the program, estimates a $5,000-6,000 revenue per year. They’ve also been the winner of the Great American Can RoundUp for the state of Hawai’i for several consecutive years, earning them a steady additional $1,000 in prize money annually. Over the years, the recycling program has become deeply ingrained in the culture of the school as a way to build community and raise awareness of sustainability.  If you or your school is interested in starting a recycling drive, take note that the 2018, island-wide recycling rules have changed.  

  • Earned Income & Fundraising

Of course growing an edible garden can be a revenue generating project! Schools have sold their produce at farmers markets or informally to teachers and families. Several zero-waste schools on Oahu sell their surplus compost to support their programs. Resource Recovery Specialist on Oahu, Mindy Jaffe, recommends initiating composting programs before starting a garden to “make your own inputs from the beginning.” Not only does the garden generate what they consume saving money on soil and soil amendments, but surplus compost, vermicompost and worm stock can be sold locally for additional funds. On a good year, Jaffe says, the schools she works with bring in around $8,000-$9,000 from selling surplus compost.

Regular or annual fundraisers can bring in a lot of money and be a good way to show off the garden. On Maui, Grow Some Good hosts the annual Taste of School Gardens Event benefiting local school gardens. Other, ongoing fundraiser ideas used by schools on different islands include setting up donation containers at hardware store cash registers. Schools partnering with Maui School Garden Network have successfully generated $400-500 per year, per store in the past. Other fundraiser ideas include partnering with a local restaurants to sponsor a night where a percentage of proceeds will be donated to a school garden – Hukilau Lanai, Merrimens, Papalani Gelato, and RumFire have all held fundraisers for KSGN in the past – ask your local restaurant if they’d be open to the idea!

  • Curricular Integration

Curricular integration is by far the most successful strategy for ensuring a productive, engaging, and sustainable school garden program, since staffing funding can come from the school budget. However, you’ll need extensive support from administration to do.

At Waimea High School, their Natural Resources Career Pathway provides an opportunity for students to learn while actively managing a 3-acre mini farm. Teacher Greg Harding is in charge of the project, which hosts 120 students for classes. As a Career and Technical Education (CTE) position, Natural Resou
rce classes are DOE funded positions. Because Food and Agriculture are the main focus of Connect to Career (C2C) initiatives on Kaua‘i, Harding is able to offer in-depth programs of study with classes in interdisciplinary introduction to earth, environment and energy systems, how to cultivate terrestrial and aquatic plants and more. The school farm, which includes 2 shade houses and a substantial aquaponics system with about 500 fish, is an integral part of the Natural Resource pathway. Additional funding comes from selling produce to senior citizens and teachers every Thursday.

In younger grades without CTE tracks, there are a few public school programs to fund part-time teachers. PTT (Part-Time Temporary) teaching funds have been used for a number of schools across the state to fund part-time garden elective teachers, including Wilcox Elementary in Lihue. PTT teachers are able to work up to 17 hours a week to offer extra academic or elective classes, for about $20 an hour. A few DOE schools in Hawaii have made “sustainability coordinator” positions as a PTT position to support garden classes. Make sure to talk to your school administration in January or February of the preceding year to discuss if your school is eligible.

Makaha Elementary School, on O’ahu, offers garden classes as part of an IRA (Instructional Resource Augmentation) rotation system, with funding for a full-time garden/STEM teacher. At Makaha, approximately every 8 weeks, all teachers from a grade have a “work-day” with each other to discuss curriculum, best practices, etc. While at the full-day meeting, students of that grade rotate through a 4 class IRA rotation. An IRA teacher’s schedule may consist of teaching a different grade each day.The elementary school partners with neighboring non-profit Hoa ‘Aina O Makaha to provide hybrid garden / Hawaiiana classes at their gardens. Each garden class is designed to provide in-depth curriculums that aim to promote “inquiry and encourages observation, discovery and experimentation in a living laboratory” as a supplementary way to get students interested and successful in STEM subjects.

If you are interested in specifically engaging SPED or other special needs students in a garden space, PPT (ParaProfessional Tutor) positions have been used at Waianae Intermediate and High School on Oahu to facilitate garden visits to neighboring gardens, but could also be used to offer, regular in-school garden classes.

  • AmeriCorps Members

AmeriCorps is a federal community service program that places year-long volunteers into community service positions and provides them a living allowance and educational award. AmeriCorps State Programs support service members who perform direct service activities (such as teaching garden classes and gardening) and AmeriCorps VISTA Programs focus on providing capacity-building services (fundraising, volunteer recruitment & management, supporting program launches). They have a great video HERE explaining the programs.

Hosting an AmeriCorps member offers full-time support at minimal cost to the school; you can even split a member with another school to create two part-time school garden support positions! To learn more, check out the Corporation for National Community Service’s Hawai‘i State Office website at http://americorpshawaii.org.  

These are just some ideas to get you started!
What ways have you found to help support staffing for school gardens?

Diane Sikkens is a Youth and Food Programs AmeriCorps VISTA with Mālama Kaua‘i, supporting the Kauai‘i School Garden Network and Ag Internship programs. Diane completed her first year of AmeriCorps service at Great Oaks Charter School in Connecticut, and has also worked as a teacher in Uganda, Vermont, and India. She graduated from Bennington College with Bachelors of Liberal Arts, with concentrations in Political Science and French, and studied abroad in the Netherlands.