Building School Gardens

Openlands seeks to create daily opportunities for people to discover and explore nature in the hopes of inspiring life-long environmental stewards. One of these daily opportunities is created through the Building School Gardens (BSG) program, in which Openlands helps create open green space on Chicago Public School campuses that provide a myriad of learning opportunities for students, teachers, and the broader community.

Since the launch of Building School Gardens in 2007, Openlands supports 58 Chicago Public Schools on their campus. Through this program, approximately 33,000 students are directly impacted by the school gardens each day in addition to the hundreds of teachers, parents, and community members.

Each school garden was designed in collaboration with a Garden Team, which created a garden design to support the unique needs of their school. Every student was engaged in the creation of the garden by participating in the design process, assisting in creating an art component for the garden, or installing and mulching the plants and shrubs. After each school garden was installed, the school embarked on a two-year support plan with Openlands to ensure the school had the resources and capacity to sustain and grow their new garden. BSG boasts a 93% success rate two years after garden installation. The national average is 40%, with success hinging on school garden usage and maintenance. A key component that directly enhances the program’s success and sustainability is the robust support that Openlands provides to each school.

Currently, Openlands has paused constructing new school gardens and is using this opportunity to strengthen the support that we provide to the existing school gardens. If you are interested in starting a school garden, we encourage your Garden Team to use the manual below as a resource to help guide you in developing a successful school garden.

Download the Building School Gardens Manual.

Photo: Tony Armour and Lisa Miller


Building School Gardens Workshops

Supporting your Garden Team and Art in the Garden

Who: Any member of your Garden Team: teachers (especially art teachers), staff, parents, community members, etc.

What: An enthusiastic, committed Garden Team is crucial to the long success of the school garden. Come out and hear from other schools on how to create and sustain a successful Garden Team. Our host school will share how their Garden Team has evolved from their first year with a school garden to now, their tenth year!  As a fine arts school they will model art lessons that can be taught in the school garden, as well as share their many art projects that make their garden new and exciting every year. CPDUs will be provided.

Where: Franklin Fine Arts Center, 225 W. Evergreen Avenue, Chicago

When: Saturday, January 28, 2017, 10am – 2:30pm

Cost: $45

Register online or contact for more information.

Participating Schools: See a complete list of schools that have installed gardens through the Building School Gardens Program here.

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Owner & land manager: Chicago Public Schools

BMO Harris Bank is the Principal Sponsor of Building School Gardens.


Funding for garden development provided by the City of Chicago. Additional funding provided by Peoples Gas, The Albert Pick, Jr. Fund, and the Winnetka Garden Club.