Oxbow and Frank Wagner Elementary School

Garden Buddies, a School Garden Program and Partnership with Frank Wagner Elementary since 2016

Since 2016, Oxbow has been working with educators from Frank Wagner Elementary to develop and implement year-long, all-season programming held at the farm, in the classroom, and in the school garden. The initiative grew out of an interest, expressed by Frank Wagner’s kindergarten teachers, to collaborate with Oxbow to provide their students regular access to the outdoors. At the partnership’s start, the school had little outdoor green space and the children were largely limited to indoor learning. Through collaboration and ongoing relationships, we are proud to say this partnership is like a thriving perennial- enduring, persistent, and thriving in all season, even through the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are proud to say that at this point, Oxbow’s farm-based environmental education programming has reached all of the nearly 600 students at the school (and beyond).

2016-2018 Nearly 200 Kindergartner students visited Oxbow and participated in monthly Environmental Education programming. As of 2020-2021. these original kindergartners are in fourth grade!

The story of the partnership has evolved over the following phases:

  • Phase 1- “Partnering for the Future”, 2016-2019
    • Kindergartners build skills of scientific inquiry and learn first hand that “a farm is a place in nature”
    • The School Garden “outdoor classroom” is built
  • Phase 2- “Expanding the Classroom” 2019-2021
    • Fourth-graders lead kindergartners as mentors in the garden
    • Through over 50 consecutive weeks of “Veggie Visits”, school families take home seedlings and veggies from Oxbow during school closures and are invited for family visits at the school garden. Read more here.
    • A Pop Up Pumpkin patch brings the seasonal harvest festival to the schoolyard
  • Current programming during the 2020-2021 school year
    • Garden Buddies is “virtually unstoppable” with all kindergarten and 4th/5th grade students participating in hands-on virtual programs (cooking, apples, carrots, and team building are just some of the topics we’ve explored). Read more here.
    • Weekly Family Garden Visits on Wednesdays is an option for at in-person learning outdoors at the school

      In March 2020, a hard working bunch of students. families, teachers and community members spruced up the garden for spring.
    • The Growing Community volunteer group kicks off with families and community members dedicated to supporting the School Garden and related programming

Phase I: Kindergarten programming

The partnership’s pilot year (2016-2017) focused on lesson development and delivering the program, team building, and professional development with Oxbow’s Farmer-Educators and Frank Wagner teachers. In the next school year (2017-2018) students participated in monthly environmental education lessons and links activities from month to month. Topics of focus include: crop life cycles (emphasis on pumpkins and apples); nature and animal habitats; plant and animal needs; and animal adaptations. Students participating in the program have shown enthusiasm and affinity for science learning. Early learning offers a critical window to build science skills and connect to nature – Oxbow is proud to be a part of the students’ formative experiences as they interact with and learn about the environment.

Oxbow’s full sequence of early learners programming, linking lessons, videos, and best practices can be found on our Earth Connections Webpage.

Programming is funded through two EPA Environmental Education Grants: EPA grant #01J26201 and #01J65901. Additional support for this project is provided through matching funds from Raven Trust Fund and through private donations made by Oxbow’s generous supporters. Other partnerships that have helped this program thrive include: Green Plate Special, Wilderness Awareness School, EduCulture, Farmer Frog, Nature Vision, OPSI’s Education for Environment and Sustainability program, University of Washington College of the Environment Capstone Interns, and the University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School. For questions about the project, please contact us.