Gardens, partnerships growing at Triangle Elementary Schools

This year, IFFS Urban Agriculture Team joined together with the staff and students of Eastway Elementary School (Durham) and Hunter Elementary School (Raleigh), to enhance their gardening education programs. This exciting new collaborative allows more students to engage with their school garden right now, while sowing the seeds for long-term plans to integrating evidence-based garden curriculum. Eastway and Hunter are exciting schools for us to partner with. For starters, both schools are close to our two urban garden sites: Geer Street Learning Garden located in East Durham and Camden Street Learning Garden located in Southeast Raleigh.

“What I love best about school gardens is that they: provide students with a total sensory learning experience, get them outside during the school day, create access to fresh produce, and allow them to take ownership over their food,” said Sabina Bastias, IFFS Urban Ag Youth Programs Coordinator.

Eastway is currently served by BackPack Buddies with the help of our corporate partner Farragut Systems. Of the 600-member student body, over 90%of enrolled students are eligible for the National School Lunch Program. Under the leadership of Principal Shayla Holeman, Eastway staff and volunteers have already built a garden and planted an orchard on school grounds. This commitment to enhancing the school environment is why we are excited about teaching weekly lessons to fifth-graders in the ‘Gardening’ Friday Club. Friday Clubs are an enrichment program where students spend an hour each week exploring new and varied interests, ranging from “Soils & Water,” to “Insects & Diseases,” to “Fruits & Nuts/ Vegetables & Herbs.” All lessons are coming from the Junior Master Gardener program, an innovative 4-H youth gardening project. And they’ve been a hit!

“Worms are so cool! We must love our worms, because without them our soil would not be good for our veggie plants,” said Liseth, a 5th grader at Eastway Elementary School.

Supported by a grant from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, our goal at Eastway is to engage 120 student participants by June.

Meanwhile in Raleigh, similar efforts are underway to assist Hunter Elementary in reinstating their school garden program. One of their goals is to form a school garden committee next year made up of teachers, administration, students, parents, maintenance staff, etc. First steps have included teaching weekly Junior Master Gardener lessons to 2nd and 3rd grade students in the Botany Elective, and advertising the garden to parents at a school-wide Family Science Night. School garden committees are a fantastic way to create long-term sustainability of gardens. They allow multiple stakeholders to be involved in the daily use, expansion, fundraising, up-keep, and mission of the garden.

“I love going to the garden, because it means we get to do something fun and learn something new!” said Erwin, a 3rd grader at Hunter Elementary School.

One critical aspect of enhancing gardening programs is teaching the next generation self-sufficiency skills to end hunger. By providing students with the tools to grow their own food, we are creating a pathway to alleviate food insecurity, fostering environmental stewardship, and promoting health in a child’s life. We are thrilled to bring new activities and lessons to these schools!

“If we build a society based on honoring the earth, we build a society which is sustainable, and has the capacity to support all life forms.” -Winona LaDuke, American activist, environmentalist, economist, and writer, known for her work on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development


By Sally Bache, IFFS Administrative Services Manager (contact:, Sabina Bastias, IFFS Urban Ag Youth Programs Coordinator (contact:, and Eliza Bordley, IFFS Durham Urban Ag Programs Manager (contact: