Testimonials

Every year, REAL School Gardens works with schools, teachers, students, corporate partners and school administrators. From 4th graders who just discovered they love science, to CEOs who just came away from a great volunteer day, REAL School Gardens’ staff members work hard to ensure all of our partners have a great experience.

Tina Kates — Science Teacher
Many teachers have trouble finding good hands-on activity to kind of nurture and grow those kids that may not be really comfortable in an academic setting.

Many teachers have trouble finding good hands-on activity to kind of nurture and grow those kids that may not be really comfortable in an academic setting. This past year I had a student who had the hardest time understanding Earth’s rotation, so we literally went to our REAL school garden and set it up so that we had the compasses we had a ruler and we marked the sun’s direction. We put a string from where our pole was and just extended the shadows and as the day went by they actually went back out and saw it move. And at the very end the kids like “Okay I get it! Oh my God this makes so much sense.” And I said “We are moving! What is the force that is keeping us down?” And they’re like “Gravity I get it now Ms. Kates, I get it!” and when he finally said that it was like “Hallelujah!” So we had that garden experience and every time we came to a question that covered that, he reflected back “Remember we went to the garden?” Even when another kid would get confused and forget he would instinctively and say “Remember we went to the garden, we had the compass and we follow the path of the tree and we talked about this and this…” The experience in the garden that one simple thing that in a teacher’s mind you’re like, okay maybe it won’t work, but with that one kid that one concept that was so abstract, that experience in that garden just cemented everything that I have been trying to hammer in for a week and a half. It was done in one class period. So that was just a wonderful experience of the future to see my kids do.

Teacher at Gladys Noon Spellman
The kids are having such a great time out here, they’re really happy.

The kids are having such a great time out here, they’re really happy. Even a lot of the kids that tend to be behavior problems in the classroom, they’re out here, we have no behavior problems they’re enjoying themselves, they’re doing hands on experiences, building and everything. One of the problems that we come across as teachers is that when they’re in the classroom, it’s very hard for them to make those connections. You have students where their parents take them out to do different things, they go to museums, they go and get real-world experiences of these concepts that we’re talking about in class. But a lot of our children just don’t have that parent or a big brother or big sister that’s taking them to these different places. So it’s great that we can have an outdoor classroom that kids can come out here and they can actually see it. So now when we talk about it in class, they say, “Oh, we remember this, we saw this outside!” Now they can make that connection and it makes it easier for them to grasp the concept.

Elijah
Elijah struggled in school.

Elijah struggled in school. Unable to focus, he’d make any excuse to get up, move around, or talk to someone, which in turn distracted everyone. Then, Elijah’s elementary school partnered with REAL School Gardens, and his teachers started taking their classes outdoors, using REAL-world lessons that make learning meaningful. “You could see things starting to click,” his teacher said. “Now when he’s moving around, he’s exploring. When he’s talking to classmates, he’s discussing the lesson. Someone said, ‘He’s a different kid out here,’ but that’s not it. It’s a better way of learning – learning by doing.” These days, Elijah loves discovering new things about the world around him; in fact, Science is his new favorite subject. His teacher beams when she talks about his progress. “Now he’s full of wonder and has the confidence to keep trying after a mistake. It’s so rewarding to hear him sharing ideas instead of just looking for a laugh.”

Camila
The new 4th grader, “Camila,” was very quiet.

The new 4th grader, “Camila,” was very quiet. She scored in the lowest quartile on her standardized tests, and didn’t engage much with anything or anyone, just stared out the window.
Then, Camila’s teachers started working with REAL School Gardens and began taking her class outside to learn concepts through hands-on experiential lessons. “She became a different child,” one teacher marveled. “She loved everything about the learning garden. Her confidence surged.”
Full of life, the outdoor classroom sparked Camila’s curiosity in learning. Her teacher said, “She relished the opportunity to explore outside, asking and answering questions about every subject. And she understood difficult concepts behind the lessons because she observed them in the real world, seeing firsthand what things meant, and why they mattered. She wasn’t understanding the concepts of angles at first, but once we did an exercise on which way to point solar panels, it clicked.”
After using the outdoor classroom regularly, Camila blossomed into a confident and deeply engaged student, working her way from Ds up to Bs and passing all of her standardized tests.

Jimmie
When Jimmie first came to school, he didn’t know how to spell or count, and he didn’t know anything about vegetables.

When Jimmie first came to school, he didn’t know how to spell or count, and he didn’t know anything about vegetables. In fact, he was so used to finger foods like chicken nuggets, he didn’t
know how to use utensils. Jimmie also struggled to pay attention in class. But then his teacher starting taking the class out into the REAL school garden to teach math, science, and language arts. Jimmie got to count while planting seeds, move while he measured leaves, and use new words to compare and contrast how plants look, feel, and smell. Now, Jimmie loves coming to school and goes out into the garden every chance he gets.He’s growing lettuce and carrots, and whenever he passes, he “says sweet things to
them, to make them even sweeter.” He’s happy to try any vegetable from the garden now and uses a spoon and a fork to try new things at lunch. Jimmie’s teacher also says he’s more engaged and focused on every outdoor lesson and thrives during hands-on activities. He’s learning to read now and loves discovering new words to describe “his”garden. He’s counted up to 100 lettuce leaves and proudly measures how big
his kale has grown.

Chris Nassetta – CEO Hilton

REAL School Gardens organized a fantastic event for our team to work alongside students and create an outdoor classroom that they can enjoy for years to come.

REAL School Gardens organized a fantastic event for our team to work alongside students and create an outdoor classroom that they can enjoy for years to come. Many of our Team Members commented that this was the best community service event we’ve ever done, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Jaylin and Jissel — Students

I think every school should have a garden, because it can give kids a chance to be good at something.

I think every school should have a garden, because it can give kids a chance to be good at something.

Jaylin and Jissel had never watched anything grow before they had a REAL school garden. Now the thing that’s grown the most is the girls’ understanding of their lessons. The girls learned science while conducting experiments and investigating the different properties of plants. They learned math while calculating the exact center of the garden to plant a tree, and the volume of dirt in a raised bed. The girls thrived when learning in the garden, and their grades started improving—Jaylin’s improved from Cs to As.
Jaylin says “I think every school should have a garden, because it can give kids a chance of being good at something.

Scott Smith — Teacher

It feels like a dream come true.

It feels like a dream come true. I just can’t sing the praises of REAL School Gardens enough.

After 15 years of teaching, Scott Smith felt burned out. I was quickly losing my enthusiasm for the job,” said Scott. But then REAL School Gardens installed a learning garden in February 2011, and Scott immediately embraced the new resource. Scott says, “The REAL school garden has made such a difference. I love being a teacher again, and my enthusiasm is contagious. The whole class is a lot more engaged in the science lessons we do outside. Whether that involves working with the vegetable beds or just measuring perimeters and calculating areas, the garden brings learning to life, and makes a huge difference in what my students understand and remember.

Jennifer Chandler – Managing Director, Texas Region U.S. Trust

Seeing employees and their families working together to accomplish so much in such a short amount time sets a REAL School Gardens project apart from other non-profit engagements.

Seeing employees and their families working together to accomplish so much in such a short amount time sets a REAL School Gardens project apart from other non-profit engagements.  And the spirit of generosity and community generated by the project is always a sincere takeaway for those involved.

Jennifer Korman – Mercedes-Benz Financial Services

REAL School Gardens does volunteerism right.

REAL School Gardens does volunteerism right.  Their projects are always a highlight of our Week of Caring.  The team leaves tired, but always fulfilled, knowing that the lasting contribution to the schools we support makes a real difference for teachers and students.

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