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.

For the next year, we are celebrating Washington Youth Garden’s successes and the people who have made it what it is today. Help us celebrate WYG’s history and envision the next half century.

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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.


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:

Garden Redesign

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.


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!

Support Our Programs