WASHINGTON YOUTH GARDEN

OVERVIEW

Washington Youth Garden (WYG) is a one-acre education garden at the National Arboretum and is a destination for garden-based education and nature play. It was originally established in 1971 to teach local elementary students horticulture and life skills. Today, Washington Youth Garden is a welcoming and inviting place for the DC community to learn and grow together. 

Our goal is to share innovative and environmentally-friendly growing techniques, encourage nature play, and grow fresh produce for the community. WYG’s pollinator garden, sensory garden, food production area, and Nature Explore classroom encourage visitors of all ages to engage with agriculture, farming, and environmental education. Thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables are grown in WYG each year, all of which are distributed to students and families in the DC community to fight food insecurity.

VISIT THE GARDEN

The garden is open to all Arboretum visitors and has parking nearby. There are also picnic tables between the Grove and the garden on a first come first served basis. Please follow our three garden agreements during your visit:

  1. Stay on the path
  2. Pick with permission
  3. Respect all living things

If you plan to bring a large group to the garden, please let us know ahead of time so we can plan accordingly. While WYG is a public garden, the school field trips we host from April through October receive priority. Please email education@fona.org or call 202-544-8733 so we can find a time that works for everyone.

Use the map to the right to navigate to the garden within the Arboretum. Click on “View larger map” to open in Google Maps.

VOLUNTEER

Volunteers provide crucial help with gardening tasks such as weeding, planting, mulching, and pest control. You don’t need prior experience, but you must be willing to make friends with the soil and the bugs!

corporate volunteer group

WYG’S STORY

In 1971, the Washington Youth Garden Council and the DC Department of Recreation broke ground at the U.S. National Arboretum. This established the fourth Youth Garden site in DC to teach elementary school students horticultural and life skills.

In 1973, WYG partnered with neighboring elementary schools to create the Garden Club for 3rd-5th graders. It operated as part of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation as an established community garden for children from local schools and DPR camps until 1996.

In 1996, due to DC budget cuts, Friends of the National Arboretum adopted Washington Youth Garden. It became our youth education and outreach program.

Adding a second full-time staff member in 1999 allowed WYG to significantly expand its programs.

In 2000, WYG established the Garden Science program, an 8 week plant science unit offered in classrooms at Title 1 schools. This program offered more formal horticulture science curricula than its predecessor, the Garden Club.

The Science Programming Reaching OUT (SPROUT) program was introduced in 2002 to bring Garden Science students on field trips to WYG.

Growing Food Growing Together started for families to learn gardening and cooking skills in their own plots at WYG.

In 2007, WYG instituted its summer internship program for college students.

We greatly appreciate the National Capital Area Garden Club’s crucial support during this time in our history which allowed WYG to flourish.

In 2010, our garden staff grew to 3 full-time members. We began installing school gardens in conjunction with Garden Science, and led the development of the DC Healthy Schools Act that dedicated state resources to horticulture education for the first time. WYG served 1,000 youth this year.

The Green Ambassador Program was established in 2013 for DC teenagers to gain experience in green careers through a paid summer internship.

In 2017 WYG hosted 4,200 students from 130 schools and camps on SPROUT field trips, marking the first year we served 6,000 youth.

The Summer Institute for Garden-based Teaching began in 2018 and the Green Ambassadors Program solidified its multi-tiered model.  

While the COVID-19 pandemic halted all in-person programs in 2020, WYG offered virtual farm field trips, virtual garden science classroom support, and Grow@Home kits. For the first time, WYG harvested and distributed over 4,000 pounds of produce to local students and families.

In 2020, WYG introduced the Educator Coaching Program to provide hands-on assistance and instruction to teachers throughout the school year. Green Ambassadors began the Guild, a paid internship opportunity during the academic year.

GARDEN REDESIGN

We are reimagining the Washington Youth Garden to make it more engaging, productive, and easier to maintain.

Project goals:

  • Make the garden more visible to visitors at the U.S. National Arboretum.
  • Incorporate signage and wayfinding so visitors can explore and interact independently.
  • Create more opportunities for nature play.
  • Strengthen the garden’s infrastructure for food production and address water and equipment challenges.
wyg garden redesign

Click the map to view in full screen, or click here for a downloadable version.

new garden signs
new garden signs