Washington Youth Garden



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.

historic photo of students tilling soil in the washington youth garden
historic photo of students taking notes as they walk through the washington youth garden

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 started working directly with school gardens by establishing 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.

historic photo of students holding bunches of kale in the washington youth garden
historic photo of students on a field trip in the washington youth garden

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, we adapted to make our program supports more flexible and tied to our partner school’s needs. In 2020, we introduced the Educator Coaching Program to provide hands-on assistance and instruction to teachers throughout the school year. This program now serves 8 to 12 Title 1 DC schools annually. 

Washington Youth Garden now grows over 7,500 lbs of food annually for distribution through our partner schools and community partners. It remains a hub for young people, teachers, and families to learn about how they can grow food in their schools and homes. Through all our youth programs, FONA serves over 7,000 students across the District.

Washington Youth Garden green ambassadors with the day's harvest


We are renovating Washington Youth Garden’s perimeter fence as the next step in our Grow the Garden campaign.

Replacing the existing fence will:

  • Make the garden more inviting to youth and families
  • Create a visible, central entry point to the garden by adding a front entrance
  • Incorporate honeycomb elements to make the fence more visually interesting and engaging than the existing chain link fence
  • Continue to keep out deer, raccoons, and groundhogs
  • Expand the growing space

Donate today and together we can grow the garden! We have already secured $50,000 in grant funding for the fence renovation, but we need our community’s help to reach our $150,000 goal. Whether it’s $15, $50, or $500, every donation makes a difference.

$53,594 of $150,000 raised

*Donations are for the entire Grow the Garden campaign and do not count towards annual membership.

wyg garden redesign map

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

Campaign Phases

FONA is committed to providing excellent youth education at the National Arboretum. Each phase of the Grow the Garden campaign helps us make the Washington Youth Garden more engaging, accessible, and productive for future generations.

Nadia Mercer

September 13, 2023

Amount Donated

Maisha Martin

September 12, 2023

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Karen Rand

September 11, 2023

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Tom Broderick

September 11, 2023

Amount Donated

Kevin McIntosh

September 11, 2023

Amount Donated

Luke Dickinson

September 10, 2023

Amount Donated

Pamela Raymont-Simpson

September 10, 2023

Amount Donated

Richard Boyd

September 9, 2023

Amount Donated

Dick Cecka

September 9, 2023

Amount Donated

Patricia Nutter

September 9, 2023

Amount Donated

mark buscaino

September 9, 2023

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Stella Edosomwan

September 9, 2023

Amount Donated


September 9, 2023

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Barbara Shea

September 9, 2023

Amount Donated


September 7, 2023

Amount Donated

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Science

February 15, 2023

Amount Donated


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.

At both events, we met participants from the past five decades and shared stories of how the garden has changed since its inception in 1971. We also introduced new people of all ages to WYG, played games in the garden, and shared about our current education programs. Most importantly, we shared our vision for what the next 50 years of garden-based education in Washington Youth Garden will look like, starting with our proposed plans to redesign the garden.

Sponsor list as of June 7, 2022.


Margaret Strand
Lucy S. Rhame

Laura and Guy Cecala
Lynne H. Church
Gail Charnley Elliott and E. Donald Elliott
Jennifer Hatcher
Sherril Houghton
Lloyd E. Mitchell Foundation
Rafael Lopez and Linda Marks
Jim and Penny Morrill
National Capital Area Garden Clubs
Catherine Nottingham
Melissa and John Pflieger
Craven Rand
Pamela Raymont-Simpson and Charles J. Simpson, Jr.
Barbara and Jim Shea
Michael G. Stevens
Tuckie Westfall
Ken and Dottie Woodcock

Corporate Sponsors

Bernstein Management Corporation
Your Part-Time Controller

In-Kind Sponsors

Other Half Brewing
Supreme Core Cider


historic photo of students posing in front of cabbages in the washington youth garden

We want to hear your stories! With half a century of impact in our community, we want to know:

What does the Washington Youth Garden mean to you?

Write your story (no more than 500 words), share your photos, or upload a short video (30-40 seconds, no greater than 50 mb) answering this question and wishing Washington Youth Garden a happy birthday. We might feature your message in our birthday video!

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.
Share a photo or video that explains what Washington Youth Garden means to you (50 mb max)
So we can reach back out if we have additional questions.


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. 

Your support helps programs like the Washington Youth Garden thrive! 

Thank you for helping us succeed — here’s to another spectacular 50 years!

fona staff holding asparagus in the washington youth garden

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