Integrating Sustainable Agriculture with K-12 Curriculum through School Garden/Orchards: a Pre-Service Teacher Training

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $9,987.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota Duluth
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Cindy Hale
University of Minnesota Duluth

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, potatoes, sunflower
  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), berries (other), berries (strawberries), cherries, melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, celery, cucurbits, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, wildlife
  • Pest Management: botanical pesticides, prevention, row covers (for pests)
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, social capital, sustainability measures, urban agriculture


    Teachers play the important role in our society of educators of the next generation.  The goal of this project was to develop a experiential curriculum to educate pre-service teachers about sustainable agriculture.  The pilot test of this project took place in three stages.  First, pre-service teaching students participated in a training.  This training included classroom lessons, a site visit, and a field trip to local sustainable agriculture locations.  During the second phase of this training, participating pre-service teachers completed student teaching assignments at schools with access to a garden.  These pre-service teachers then reflected on their experiences.  The final piece of this pilot test was a school orchard training.  Due to interest in this type of training, this phase of the project was open to pre-service teachers, teachers and community educators.  The final product of this project, informed by the pilot test, is a revised curriculum to teach pre-service teachers how to educate their future students about sustainability, sustainable agriculture and food systems through the lens of school gardens.


    This project, originally titled “Integrating Sustainable Agriculture with K-12 Curriculum through School Garden/Orchards: A Pre-Service Teacher Training,” educated pre-service teachers sustainable agriculture principles and skills using school gardens/orchards. Through experiential learning, pre-service teachers developed the necessary skills to educate future generations about the benefits of and supporting the development of sustainable agriculture food systems. This pilot project took place in three phases. During the first phase pre-service teachers participated in a four-day workshop. The training included visits to local farms and opportunities for hands-on exploration of sustainable agriculture practices. Pre-service teachers also had the opportunity to develop a plan for implementing sustainable agriculture to their own lesson plans and curricula. The second phase of this project took place during a student teaching experience. Pre-service teachers were placed in a mentor relationship with experienced teachers who can model the use of the school gardens and explore strategies for integrating sustainable agriculture practices in the K-12 curricula. Pre-service teachers documented their learning and accomplishments through reflective communication with the project coordinator. Project effectiveness and learning by pre-service teachers was accessed through this reflective communication.  The third phase of this project was a full-day workshop focusing school orchards offered to pre-service teachers and current educators.  Further, obstacles and opportunities for successful integration of sustainably designed and managed school gardens/orchards into K- 12 student curriculum were identified, and the project modified to ensure future viability.

    Project objectives:

    This project created an opportunity for K-12 teachers to start their careers using sustainable agriculture practices as a teaching method through school gardens/orchards, setting the stage for systemic changes in the ways K-12 students, teachers, and parents view sustainable agriculture. Project participants defined and identified sustainable agricultural practices compared to conventional practices. They gained an understanding about how sustainable agriculture practices can increase the quality of food produced, food security for their communities and improve the ecological systems upon which sustainable living is based. Experiences with local farmers, and the integration of sustainable agricultural practices in their school garden/orchard curricula will increase K-12 students, teachers and parents knowledge of and access to sustainable farmers and farm products. This cycle of education will likely improve economic viability, enhancing the quality of life for farmers/ranchers, rural and urban communities, and society as a whole. Students will gain the skills, knowledge, and understanding that will lead them to seek out sustainability in their daily choices including growing their own food, buying from local farmers, and pursuing sustainable farming as a career. Short-term outcomes of this training included changes in the knowledge, awareness, skills and attitudes of pre-service teachers. Project participants: • Gained experiential understanding of the concept of sustainability (the balance between environment, society and the economy). • Applied their understanding of sustainability through a real-life sustainable agriculture experience. Intermediate outcomes included changes in pre-service teachers’ behavior and practices by: • Learning to use a school garden/orchard to integrate teaching of sustainable agriculture concepts and practices with student learning in math, science, and other subjects. • Using school gardens/orchards to engage K-12 student in active learning about the ecological principles, knowledge, and skills related to specific sustainable agriculture practices (i.e. holistic planning, organics, IPM and beneficial insects, soil and water quality improvement, crop/landscape diversity, proactive weed control, etc.). Long-term outcomes of training pre-service teachers in sustainable agriculture school gardens/orchards as a vehicle to actively engage students are expected to include: • Successful and ongoing education of K-12 students through the use of sustainable agriculture concepts and skills integrated with the main subject areas. • Teachers, students, and the community will increase their understanding of the importance of sustainable agriculture to their personal and their communities’ health.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.