Principal’s Bookshelf: Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools

Jane S. Hirschi.
Harvard Education Press, 2015, 149 pages.

Community gardens are popping up all around the country. You see them everywhere—outside churches and schools, and within neighborhoods. The opportunities to learn within a garden setting are endless, and community gardens put those opportunities in the hands of children and adults who have been raised in a processed and fast food world.

Jane S. Hirschi’s book will inspire you with her garden-based learning advocacy. Written in a practical tone, Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools promotes the concept of gardening in schools by providing the philosophy of and process for creating a school-based community garden. It also details how to overcome barriers to the process.

Each chapter brings you deeper into the world and benefits of community gardens. Hirschi highlights actual teachers and students doing real learning through the gardening process. She writes that school gardens give students context for understanding both simple and complex concepts, and engages them in hands-on opportunities. Teachers can use the garden for a single lesson or series of lessons with curricular connections. From math problems to science observations to creative writing, Hirschi shares stories of children who have been inspired to learn from their exposure to community garden-based learning.

The author also shares five models for garden-based learning from schools across the United States, providing the historical background, design, funding process, and support and assessment systems for each model. By providing the historical background, Hirschi alleviates some of the weight of the daunting task of creating a community garden-based learning program in your school.

Lastly, Ripe for Change provides a set of valuable assessment tools to determine the impact and benefits of a garden-based education program. Considering that funding for a garden-based learning program may come from multiple stakeholders, an assessment to provide feedback on the program’s success is imperative for support.

I found Hirschi’s book to be inspiring. She writes with passion for the topic as a leader in the garden-based learning arena. The book is a manageable read at 149 pages, and provides practical information on a process that could bring immense benefits to your students.

Reviewed by Kristin Liewehr Bishop, an elementary school principal in Plano, Texas. NAESP MEMBER


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