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School Garden Movement: Primary and Secondary Resources

The Library of Congress has a rich collection of materials related to the history of the school garden movement. This research guide lists primary and secondary sources to learn more about its history as well as resources for educators.


A poster encouraging school children to contribute to the war effort in 1981 as part of the United States School Garden Army.
Barney, Maginel Wright, artist. Follow the Pied Piper. Join the United States School Garden Army. 1919. Posters: World War I Posters. Prints and Photographs Division.

School gardens were a mainstay in public and private schools in the late 1900s. Growing out of the "nature study" movement, which brought teaching of science into classrooms, these gardens were seen as a means to alleviate a wide variety of social concerns. It was believed that gardens would provide character building, an appreciation of the natural world, a strong work ethic, civic pride, and vocational learning in agriculture, while also serving as a hands-on teaching tool for the natural sciences. During World War I, the existing culture of school gardening played a part in filling the food shortages experienced during wartime. After World War I, school gardens largely fell away until a modest revival starting in the 1990s, fostered by Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard Project and Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. 

While this piece of education history has been largely forgotten, there is a deep archive of primary source materials on the legacy of school gardens. This guide serves to highlight this rich history.

Readings on the History of School Gardens

Readings on Contemporary School Gardens in the U.S.

About the Science Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Science Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of science, medicine and engineering. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of science and engineering  assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of science, medicine, and engineering materials.