Gardens That Teach Challenge

Every summer, school gardens run into a problem: The produce that the students and teachers cultivated throughout the spring is ready for harvest, but come vacation, no one is around for the final (and most delicious) part of the experience— picking and eating.

Come next spring, one less school will be facing this challenge. Thanks to sponsorships from Sustainable Cleveland 2019, the Cleveland Educators for Sustainability and Tunnel Vision Hoops, the winner of the Gardens That Teach Food Day Challenge will be awarded a new hoop house to extend their garden’s growing season, providing the school with fresh, local produce year round.

A hoop house is a temporary greenhouse that protects and insulates crops against harsh winter weather. This way, “students can be productive and learn to grow food in the fall, winter and spring,” says Carlton Jackson, a co-founder of Cleveland-based Tunnel Vision Hoops.

“Most children, particularly in urban areas, are increasingly removed from the basic elements of nature upon which their own lives depend,” says Linda Alexander, a member of the advisory board for the Cleveland Educators for Sustainability. “Today, more than ever, we need young people to think and care about our connections to the natural world—food, air, energy and water. We must help children become more eco-literate.”

The Gardens That Teach Food Day Challenge is open to all public schools in Cuyahoga County for grades K–8. To enter, the school must describe how their hoop house would fit into the classroom, the community and even the lunchroom, thereby educating children on the benefits of “eating real.” Proposals will be evaluated by a panel of local judges and the winning school will be announced in March 2013.

“I hope that the schools will use the contest as a learning opportunity for students,” says Jenita McGowan, chief of sustainability for the City of Cleveland. “Even if a school doesn’t win, they will have created a good plan that they can incorporate into their curriculum.”

To find out how to apply, visit