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Gardeneers are dedicated leaders who sustain school gardens in order to enable students to enrich their knowledge of nutrition, to connect with their community, and to become stewards of the environment.
Gardeneers was co-founded by May Tsupros and Adam Zmick, both Teach For America alumni. During their years in the classroom, May and Adam saw first-hand how poor nutrition was affecting their students in terms of behavior, academics, and beyond. Before meeting each other, both May and Adam worked on school gardens and witnessed the multitude of positive effects that they had on students. Being science teachers, they both studied the existing research relating to school gardens and found a myriad of benefits: improved test scores on science, better dietary decisions, and improved social-emotional skills. Gardens were even related to increased property values and decreased crime. With so many obvious benefits, they asked, why weren’t there more active school gardens?
While there are a handful of successful school gardens here in Chicago, they are vastly outnumbered by schools with unused garden infrastructure - raised beds full of weeds and debris instead of engaged learners. What was the key factor that separated the successful school gardens from the unsuccessful ones? The key factor was a Gardeneer - a leader with expertise working with both kids and crops that goes the extra mile to make everything happen.
The mission of Gardeneers is to identify and train these leaders to sustain school gardens and lead garden-based lessons that enable students to enrich their knowledge of nutrition, connect with their community, and become stewards of the environment. Founded in January 2014, Gardeneers now sustains 9 school gardens, serving more than 400 students with garden-based lessons every week in schools in low-income neighborhoods across Chicago.
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