Mission: To create opportunities in urban public school gardens for children's experiential learning and for eating healthier food.
Programs: The citysprouts program makes garden-based learning accessible to over 7,000 children each year in urban public schools serving high-need students. Teachers report improvements in their students' curiosity about and comfort in the natural world. They report that garden-based learning boosts students' science skills. Teachers also report that the garden helps english language learners comprehension. More than 90% of teachers surveyed report that it helps them create meaningful hands-on learning opportunities for their students and creates valuable opportunities for teacher-student interaction. Citysprouts' edible learning gardens improve children's health by expanding their healthy food choice. Citysprouts began in 2001 when a group of parents, teachers and a dynamic school principal in cambridge, massachusetts came together over their deep concern for children's lack of access to outdoor learning experiences and their bewilderment about where their food comes from. As educators and parents, they knew that school gardens are ripe with opportunities for young learners. Citysprouts' founders believed that a school garden program integrated into teachers' practice and the culture of the school could change children's learning trajectory and the health patterns. They were committed to developing a model that would work in under-served communities as well as well-resourced communities. By 2008, citysprouts school partnership program operated in every elementary school in cambridge, serving a total school population of 4,000 students. In 2017, the organization completed an expansion in boston public schools (bps) to achieve an equal-sized cohort of partner schools in both cities, making garden-based learning accessible to a total student population of more than 8,000 children ages 3-14. Citysprouts middle school program began in 2007 when citysprouts launched a tuition-free summer program for cambridge youth ages 11-14 ("middle schoolers"). In 2015, this program was expanded as an after school in cambridge and boston. In 2017, a summer program was piloted at the holmes school in boston. Citysprouts middle school program currently serves 200 youth in after school or summer programs. Citysprouts was named a social innovator in the social innovation forum for its results-oriented approach to improving food security and nutrition for children and families (2008). Founding director jane hirschi's book, ripe for change: garden-based learning in schools (harvard education press, april 2015) has received praise from environmentalists as well as educators. Richard louv, author of last child in the woods, writes, "ripe for change is a powerful tool to enhance learning that every school should utilize. " school partnership program:in the school partnership program, 24 public schools in cambridge and boston are served. A staff of 6 garden educators provide 10 hours of support weekly to each partner school throughout the school year: co-teaching garden lessons with classroom teachers, meeting with teachers in grade-level staff meetings as well as individually to assist them in developing and implementing garden-based extensions to teachers' curricula. Citysprouts staff also oversees the development and maintenance of the schools' edible learning gardens, ensuring that they are planned, planted, maintained and harvested through the entire growing season. The program supports food system education through activities such as apple cider pressing in the fall and harvesting the schoolyard bounty for classroom consumption. Success is measured by the frequency of children's garden experience (access), the impact that the garden experience has on students' learning goals and health & well-being, and the impact of the program has on teachers' practice. Middle school program: in citysprouts middle school program, staff leads classes with 6th-8th grade students after school and in the summer. This program is based at 6 of the organization's partner schools in cambridge and boston and serves 115 youth in the summer program and 75 youth during the school year. The middle school program employs its own curriculum, one that is grounded in food knowledge, science practices and community engagement ("healthy food, healthy ecosystems and healthy communities. ") metrics in the middle school program are youths' positive changes in food systems knowledge and healthy food choice, deeper engagement in science, technology engineering, math (stem) careers, and indications of positive social emotional learning.