School Garden Initiative

Cooperative Extension

The Desourdy School Garden Mentor Program

The award-winning School Garden Mentor (SGM) concept was developed in response to requests for assistance from K-12 schools interested in installing new school gardens or rehabilitating existing gardens. School Garden Mentors are certified URI Master Gardener volunteers who have completed additional school garden training. SGMs are supported by staff at URI Cooperative Extension who provide training, design consultation and ongoing assistance as well as a menu of fee-for-service options. Desourdy School Garden Mentors are named in memory of the late Catherine Desourdy, Master Gardener class of 2001.

The most successful school gardens facilitate interdisciplinary learning, harness children’s enthusiasm for the natural world, foster environmental awareness, ecological literacy and wellness, and bolster students’ understanding of nutrition and food access through outdoor engagement and applied learning in a “living laboratory”. School Garden Mentors serve as resources, advocates and educators to help schools achieve these goals.

Award Winning Program

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

School Garden Mentors support your garden by:

  • Assisting your school in determining and reaching your school’s own gardening goals
  • Serving on the garden planning committee with teachers, parents and other volunteers
  • Providing technical guidance for planning and sustaining environmentally-sound school gardens
  • Supporting teachers in the garden encouraging them to connect garden to school curriculum
  • Ensuring year-to-year gardening continuity in a constantly changing environment
  • Serving as an ongoing conduit for the many free resources available to your school through URI Cooperative Extension, including:
    • Complete soil tests performed by the UConn Soil Analysis Lab – soil pH, texture and nutrient levels and lead levels (recommended every 3 years)
    • Vegetable, herb, and flower seeds donated by Ocean State Job Lot
    • Chemical-free seedlings from the URI Master Gardener greenhouses

School Garden Mentors are not responsible for weeding or watering school gardens, however they provide best practices for garden maintenance and may participate in workdays with the school community.

SGMs are provided free-of-charge to Rhode Island schools. To allow for proper staffing and training, new SGM requests are approved July-October for placement in the following year. After a site visit, an agreement is signed wherein your school agrees to follow the School Garden Initiative best practices including obtaining buy-in from the school principal and participation from the school community and using environmentally-sound gardening methods. Schools are matched with a team of School Garden Mentors under the leadership of a regional manager. All SGMs are required to have clearance from the RI Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), a copy of which is available for your school.

How do I request a school garden mentor?

To allow for proper staffing and training, new SGM requests are accepted during the intake period of July-November for placement in the following year. After a site visit, an agreement is signed wherein your school agrees to follow the School Garden Initiative best practices including obtaining buy-in from the school principal and participation from the school community and using environmentally-sound gardening methods. Schools are matched with a team of School Garden Mentors under the leadership of a regional manager. All SGMs are required to have clearance from the RI Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI), a copy of which is available for your school.

Note: Our acceptance period for new SGM locations for 2018 is now closed.  Please return to this website to submit a request form in July-October for consideration in 2019.  In the meantime, we encourage you to visit our School Garden Initiative website to find how-to guides, curricula, funding information and more!
 
The URI Master Gardener Program serves communities in Rhode Island. 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.

What region is my school in?

The SGM program is organized by region, each with a SGM Program Regional Manager. Use the chart below to determine your school’s region.

State
SGM RegionCities and Towns
Southern Region
(SGM Program Regional Managers: Kayla Hetherington &
Linda Hogan)
Charlestown, Hopkinton, Narragansett, New Shoreham, Richmond, South Kingstown, Westerly
Providence Region
(SGM Program Regional Manager: Kaela Keller)
Providence
Northern Region
(SGM Program Regional Manager: Linda Carlow)
Burrillville, Central Falls, Cumberland, East Providence, Foster, Glocester, Johnston, North Providence, North Smithfield, Lincoln,Pawtucket, Scituate, Smithfield, Woonsocket

Eastern Region
(SGM Program Regional Manager: Wendy Brennan)
Barrington, Bristol, Jamestown, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Warren
Central Region
(SGM Program Regional Manager: Melissa Guillet)
Coventry, Cranston, East Greenwich, Exeter, North Kingstown, Warwick, West Greenwich, West Warwick
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