URI Master Gardener Program

Cooperative Extension

The Desourdy School Garden Mentor Program

“Listen well; observe well; offer options…”

The Catherine Desourdy School Garden Mentors (SGM) are a service of URI Master Gardener Program based at URI Cooperative Extension. The goal of the SGM Program is to help Rhode Island and surrounding area schools provide relevant learning environments to foster deeper understanding of natural sciences, food systems, environmental stewardship and other STEAM concepts.

School Garden Mentors is a free service. Schools are provided with a team of one- two certified URI Extension Master Gardener volunteers who have each completed additional training to qualify as a School Garden Mentor (SGM). Their mission is to assist your school in determining and reaching your school’s own gardening goals, to facilitate year-to-year gardening continuity and to be the on-going conduit for science-based gardening advice and the many free resources available to your school through URI Cooperative Extension.

Award Winning Program

The Desourdy School Garden Mentor Program received the Internation Search for Excellence award in 2017!  Read more about this award here.

DSGMP1SGMs do not assume a leadership role, but are available as a resource for your school gardening group (parents, teachers, administrators, other volunteers). The SGMs act as advisors, always available to help find answers to school gardening questions and help solve problems.  This fulfills the mission of the URI Master Gardener Program, which is to educate citizens about environmentally-sound gardening methods that are research-based.

The primary goal of an SGM is to provide gardening advice to the school’s gardening group, encour  aging teachers to utilize the garden as an outdoor classroom.   In certain cases, SGMs may directly educate children in the garden, although the most successful school gardens generate schoolwide buy-in from the beginning.  All SGMs are required to have clearance from The RI Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), a copy of which is available for your school.

DSGMP2The services offered by The Desourdy School Garden Mentor Program (SGM)

  • The mentors answer questions and offer options for planning school gardens.
  • The SGMs can assist in garden site selection or plant selection for a site, be it flowers or vegetables.
  • The SGMs serve as conduits to the research-based science of the Land Grant University System
  • Access to standards-based curricula for engaging youth in Gardens and Greenspaces
  • Each spring through your SGMs, the Program provides to you without cost:
    • Complete soil tests performed by the UConn Soil Analysis Lab –
      soil pH, texture and nutrient levels and lead levels
    • URIMGP analysis of test report to provide guidance for amending soil for what will be grown
    • Vegetable and flower seeds donated by Ocean State Job Lot
    • Chemical-free herbs, pollinator plants and vegetables starter plants from our URI greenhouses
  • Free access to the URI/Master Gardener Hotline – 800-448-1011 for gardening questions, etc.
  • Free access to The URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences Plant Clinic –
    for diagnosing plant diseases and garden pests.
  • One free registration for school contact and your school garden mentor to the annual Extension School Garden Conference

Additional resources may include:

  • Information on school garden grants
  • Garden tool donations
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Rain barrels
  • Information on field trips, garden education programs and special garden-related events
How do I request a school garden mentor?

To allow for proper staffing and training, new SGM requests are accepted July-October for placement in the following year.  When a request for a new School Garden Mentor is received, the relevant Regional SGM Manager will set up a visit with the school to determine if the SGM Program can meet the needs of that location. The URI Master Gardener Program serves communities in Rhode Island and in some cases, adjacent areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Note: if a teacher or parent involved with the school garden is interested in expanding their role, we encourage them to apply for the URI Master Gardener Core Training which runs from January-April each year.

Please contact the following SGM regional coordinators to request a new school program:

SGM Program Regional ManagerCities and Towns

Northern Region

Linda Carlow


Burrillville, Central Falls, Cumberland, East Providence, Foster, Glocester, Johnston, North Providence, North Smithfield, Lincoln,Pawtucket, Scituate, Smithfield, Woonsocket


Eastern Region

Wendy Brennan


Barrington, Bristol, Jamestown, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Warren

Central Region

Melissa Guillet melissaguillet27@gmail.com

Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Exeter, North Kingstown, Providence, Warwick, West Greenwich, West Warwick

Southern Region

Chris Haase chris@happyhaase.com

Linda Hogan linda.hogan67@gmail.com

Charlestown, Hopkinton, Narragansett, New Shoreham, Richmond, South Kingstown, Westerly

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