Interview with the author of The School Garden Curriculum, Kaci Rae Christopher

by: Sara on 05/24/2019

Today we speak with Kaci Rae Christopher, the author of The School Garden Curriculum: An Integrated K-8 Guide for Discovering Science, Ecology, and Whole-Systems Thinking.

Kaci Rae is the volunteer Farm and Garden Educator for Oregon's Redband Ranch. She was previously the School Garden Coordinator for the Springwater Environmental Sciences School, the Outdoor Educator for ERA, and worked on education farms, community supported agriculture initiatives, and farm schools. Her passion is fostering a healthy land ethic, personal empowerment, and environmental literacy in children of all ages through outdoor immersion and skill building in order to inspire generations of changemakers.

Our winning book giveaway questions was: What was one thing that surprised you the most about the evidence-based practice you write about in the School Garden Curriculum?

Look for the answer below. 

Don't miss out on your chance to win, check out our spring giveaway schedule here.

Dirty Hands

What was it that inspired you to write a curriculum based around a school garden?

I was inspired to write this curriculum because it was the resource that I needed at the time and that wasn’t available or existing already. It was the book that I wanted to read but didn’t have. So,

IMG_9823 (2)

when I began research for this curriculum, building the scaffolding, and practicing the lesson plans with children, I knew I was building something big. As I wrote the curriculum, I also attended workshops and conferences where I heard educator after educator asking for a physical resource that they could bring back to their communities and prove to their administrators that garden curriculum existed and was important. So, I also knew in writing the curriculum that I wanted it to be a physical book to share with others in similar situations as myself.

What would you say to administrators or teachers who feel that having a school garden is just too much work?

This is a sentiment I hear everywhere I go, where teachers and admin feel overworked and overloaded. One of the ways that I have seen a garden program successfully and sustainably integrate into a school community was in starting small and dreaming big. With each teacher and staff member taking on a small goal in the garden, or a yield, everyone can participate in the program in a capacity that they can handle. A school could dream of a large garden, but start with small containers. They could dream of wanting to grow all of their own lunch foods, but start with one taste-test per season. By focusing on small steps, with everyone in the community taking these steps together, gardening education begins to permeate the system and paths are build towards those bigger dreams, without exhausting the community.

Do you notice different learning outcomes for students who have the opportunity for a hands on outdoor experience vs a classroom, lecture based experience? And if so what are some of those outcomes.

kids with carrots

Definitely! Of course, any garden and environmental education benefits children, indoors or outdoors, and I have taught a fair share of indoor gardening classes over the years (especially on those soaking, freezing cold days). But I am most comfortable teaching children out of the classroom, in any outdoor space or free learning environment, because the opportunities for asking questions, making spontaneous observations, and physically engaging with ecosystems and natural relationships are incalculable. And this is how I want children to engage with every environment. So being in outdoor learning spaces and having hands-on activities changes the way a child’s brain works! And how they process information, relate socially, and connect emotionally to their environments. There is also often more room for children to roam outdoors. And I value any opportunity for children to move their bodies in new and active ways and to kinesthetically learn.


Author Kaci Rae Christopher

Winning Question: What was one thing that surprised you the most about the evidence-based practice you write about in the School Garden Curriculum? Is there one component to each lesson you find integral to the success of the lesson or the curriculum as a whole? 

Gosh, that's a lovely question. I guess one discovery that I had in developing this curriculum, and practicing it with children, was realizing how vital it is for adults to model the behavior they want to encourage in children. In the garden, this meant letting spiders crawl on me, handling insects and plants with care, and always demonstrating the observation skills, wonder, and lack-of-judgement that I felt was necessary for the children to have in developing an ecosystem/whole-systems worldview. I would say that having a teacher model essential ethics is something that is integral to every lesson in this curriculum.



blog comments powered by Disqus