For 50 years, Washington Youth Garden (WYG), the youth outreach and education branch of Friends of the National Arboretum, has provided hands-on education to connect youth to food, the land, and each other. We help District of Columbia youth build positive relationships with food and nature, increase consumption of healthy foods, and gain knowledge of science, agriculture, and nutrition.
Established in 1971 on the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum to teach local elementary students horticultural and life skills, WYG has grown into an award-winning education program supporting thousands of under-resourced students all over Washington, DC for the past half century.
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 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.
We have adapted Washington Youth Garden programs to meet increased demand and better serve our community. In 2020-21 during the COVID-19 pandemic, WYG:
- Grew and distributed over 4,000+ pounds of fresh produce directly to local families
- Engaged students in garden education through our Grow@Home Kits, Virtual Farm Field Trips, and Garden Science programs.
- Supported teens to develop 21st century skills and connect with community leaders through our paid internship, the Green Ambassador Program.
- Delivered professional development programs like our Summer Institute for Garden-based Teaching and Education Coaching Program for hundreds of teachers to ensure more students across DC are learning in their school garden.
As we celebrate 50 years of the Washington Youth Garden, Friends of the National Arboretum seeks to elevate WYG as a premier destination in our region for garden-based education and nature play. We are investing in three key components to ensure children are immersed in garden education for the next 50 years:
We are redesigning our garden to make it more engaging and productive. Improvements in visibility, wayfinding, and self-guided activities will engage children and families in nature play, science, and agricultural education.
With help from our design partner Groundsmith Collective, you will see new:
- Interpretive signage
- Self-guided activities
- Play features
This redesign will streamline the garden’s layout, make it easier to maintain, and increase food production.
School Garden Support
We are adapting our programs to help more schools build strong, sustainable school garden programs.
This program will have two main components:
- Garden science curriculum is taught in units and is accessible to all educators.
- Professional development opportunities provided for educators to help them achieve their school garden goals through the Summer Institute for Garden-based Teaching and the Educator Coaching Program.
Green Ambassador Program
This multi-tier, year-round program provides DC high school students with foundational skills, mentorship, access to networks, and leadership opportunities in the green field.
We are expanding this program to include three tiers of participation:
- Farm Crew is a 6-week paid internship where participants build a connection with the land and learn gardening, cooking, and carpentry skills.
- Guild is a participatory program that enables students to design and implement a group project that directly addresses food and environmental challenges in their community.
- Crew Leaders are peer mentors to new Farm Crew participants.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating Washington Youth Garden’s 50th anniversary at our Birthday Party and Evening Benefit! Thank you in particular to the donors, sponsors, and in-kind supporters who made these events possible.
Sponsor list as of June 7, 2022.
Lucy S. Rhame
Laura and Guy Cecala
Lynne H. Church
Gail Charnley Elliott and E. Donald Elliott
Lloyd E. Mitchell Foundation
Rafael Lopez and Linda Marks
Jim and Penny Morrill
National Capital Area Garden Clubs
Melissa and John Pflieger
Pamela Raymont-Simpson and Charles J. Simpson, Jr.
Barbara and Jim Shea
Michael G. Stevens
Ken and Dottie Woodcock
Bernstein Management Corporation
Your Part-Time Controller
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Join us in celebrating the Washington Youth Garden’s 50th anniversary and help us plan for the next half century.
Become a FONA member today and help FONA and the Washington Youth Garden strengthen our visitor and education programs to better support the needs of our community.
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Thank you for helping us succeed — here’s to another spectacular 50 years!