Edible Schoolyard

Edible Schoolyard Project


The Plan

Hamilton Early Learning Center teamed up with us, GROW, to help coordinate a new edible schoolyard in the front of their building. This will provide students with an outdoor learning space that will connect them to healthy food and nature.  We currently help provide garden education to the school. This opportunity would allow us to build on these experiences and provide diverse educational opportunities.

An edible schoolyard is a space that is created intentionally to provide a hands-on learning environment incorporating native edible plants.  This space mimics a forest edge.

Picture fruiting trees, edible shrubs, pollinator plants, soil-enriching plants, an asparagus area, raspberry patch, willow arch, educational signs, and seating area. Plants are typically perennials which differs from annual vegetable planting.  Although each provide healthy, local food, perennial plants create space for pollinators, requiring less maintenance, and offer a different variety of food. Currently, the space contains grass and a few trees that are planned to come down due to the emerald ash borer and age.

Edible Schoolyard design (2)

The Design

NW Pollinator Garden (Section #1): Starting from the north, there is a section right on the corner of the school property which is a low-growth pollinator garden.  A forth and fifth grade class learned about pollinators.  Then, they helped design and install this space.

Rain Garden (Section #2): This nearby space is slated to be changed into a rain garden to help reduce rainwater runoff.

North Food Forest Space (Section #3): The space up against the building which currently has a food pantry will be planted with small fruit trees and pollinators. The food pantry will stay.

Large Food Forest Space (Section #4): The larger front, central space will incorporate fruit trees, shrubs, pollinator plants, a willow arch, asparagus patch, and raspberry patch.

Outdoor Classroom and South Food Forest Space (Section #5): The south side patch will include the outdoor classroom space, a maple tree, edible shrubs, and pollinator plants.

*Thank you to Coulee Region Ecoscapes for the design.

Supporters and Partners

Currently seeking sponsors! 

We could not do this project without the generosity of donors and partners.   Please contact us if you are interested.  Thank you to the following for agreeing to participate.


La Crosse Community Foundation
Bimbo Bakeries
Paul Stry Foundation
Gundersen Health System
Blooming Prairie Foundation
Empire Screen Printing
La Crosse Education Foundation
Moore Smiles
Rotary Club of Downtown
Pearl Street Brewery

Dairyland Power


New Ground will be helping through their SOAK IT UP project with ensuring wastewater is being best managed to prevent unnecessary run-off.

Coulee Region Ecoscapes donated the design.  Thank you!


Edible Schoolyard Committee

Joe pye weed


January - March 2018: Collaborate plan between GROW and School District of La Crosse (Done)

March - August 2018: Community input sessions, solidifying goals, creating design (Done)

Start seeking funding

April- May 2019: Installation of Section 1: Pollinator Patch- 4th/5th grade class learns about pollinators and helps install the pollinator patch (done)

June 2019: Installation of Section 2: Apple Guild (done)

July 2019: Installation of Section 3: Rain Garden

Raise funding for Section #4 and #5

September - October 2019- Install section #4

Install section #5 - Outdoor Classroom - when funding permits

Other Benefits

Trauma-Informed Care

The La Crosse community is working together to help children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). In the “Building a Resilient and Trauma-Informed Community” training offered in La Crosse on September 14th, 2018, there was an emphasis on increasing protective factors for children. These factors include nutrition, exercise, positive adult role models and mindfulness. This edible schoolyard will help provide these protective factors.  For instance, we have seen that GROW gardens improve nutrition and movement. The GROW teachers are a positive role model for these children. Also, we often have students do mindfulness exercises in our spaces at the beginning of our lessons. This edible schoolyard also can be used as a soft landing for children as they enter the school. As the edible schoolyard progresses, the students will be more and more invested as they have helped plan, plant, tend, harvest and care for this space.

Fresh, Local Food

The students of Hamilton Early Learning Center and School of Technology and Arts will benefit from this edible schoolyard as it will provide an educational platform for hands-on learning regarding fresh, local food and nature.  Other schools will be able to check out this pilot program to see if it is something they would like at their school.

Neighborhood Revitalization

The Powell-Poage-Hamilton Neighborhood will benefit as well.  A meta-analysis of 143 studies found that green space in neighborhoods helps enhance human health, including reduced risk of type II diabetes, heart disease, and preterm birth (Twohig-Bennett, 2018). The neighborhood will also be encouraged to get involved through harvesting and volunteering. The community was invited to our public input planning session and gave feedback on the design.

Want to help support this great work?

Crowd funding and sponsorship opportunities available.

Contact: Jamie O'Neill at