State Journal

January 22, 2003 1 min read

Blooming Standards

Standards-based education has become the norm in public schools, and Delaine Eastin, who finished her tenure as state schools superintendent in California this month, is hoping her eight-year legacy will center around her work to ensure high standards for schools there.

The new state publication is available for $17.50, plus shipping and handling charges, by calling (800) 995-4099 or going online to

But Ms. Eastin also has cultivated a rather dirty twist on those reforms: garden-based education.

Ms. Eastin has long advocated that schools create and tend to gardens, particularly for pupils in the early grades, as a hands- on learning tool. And, she says, a garden-based curriculum can have direct ties to the state’s academic standards.

Just days before Ms. Eastin left office, the California Department of Education released a 112-page guide on linking gardens to state curricula and standards. Titled A Child’s Garden of Standards: Linking School Gardens to California Education Standards, the illustrated guide shows ways for teachers and administrators to use school gardens as they teach skills required by the standards.

“A garden in every school is even more essential to make our standards come alive,” Ms. Eastin said in a statement announcing the new publication. “We must not lose the creativity, problem-solving, and sheer love of learning that comes from hands- on, experimental learning.”

In the past year, the agency has also published a student-activity guide that links nutrition education to garden education classes, and a book profiling state farmers and giving students recipes for vegetables they grow in school gardens.

Ms. Eastin, who is now the executive director of the National Institute for School Leadership, a Washington group that helps train principals, had set a goal early in her administration to have gardens at all California schools. Now, about 3,000 gardens can be found at the state’s 9,000 schools.

Teachers use the gardens for teaching skills such as counting and sorting. Older, 4th and 5th graders can learn social studies lessons such as the heritage of California’s Native Americans and pioneers, and science lessons such as the components of seeds.

—Joetta L. Sack