In 1995, the California Department of Education launched “A Garden in Every School” initiative to promote education in fields as varied as nutrition, health, science, math, reading, and environmental studies. All these disciplines can be integrated in a school garden setting to teach students new skills and to enhance their ability to observe and think. A school garden helps students gain an understanding of natural systems through firsthand experience. School gardens foster community spirit by bringing students, school staff, families, local businesses, and organizations together.

Student in a school garden.
Student in a school garden.

The California Native Plant Society promotes the inclusion of native plants in every school garden.

Native plants help students learn the vital connection between plants and higher forms of life. Plants are at the bottom of the food chain, and native plants are a primary component of healthy ecosystems. Just as edible plants are important for human health and survival, native plants are equally necessary to other forms of life. Native plants help pollinator populations survive and thrive, which in turn help pollinate edible crops.

Some ideas for incorporating native plants in school gardens:

  • Pollinator Garden
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Bird-friendly Garden
  • Hummingbird Garden
  • Ethnobotanical Garden
  • Habitat Garden

In addition, native plants can be a part of the following types of gardens:

  • Alphabet Garden
  • Cut Flower Garden
  • Multicultural Garden
  • Year-round Flowering Garden


Before starting a school native plant garden, it is important to analyze site characteristics (soil, exposure, grade, existing hardscape, precipitation, etc.) and choose appropriate locally native plants. This will maximize chances for success while minimizing the inputs and efforts required. The resources below offer information for a variety of native plant projects.

Grant Programs

Many CNPS Chapters have their own school garden grant programs, and award funding to local schools yearly.  Visit the CNPS Chapter map webpage to find a local CNPS chapter.  In addition, there are many programs and organizations throughout the state offering grants and funding opportunities for school gardens.  A few include:

Author: Arvind Kumar, Santa Clara Valley Chapter

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