A.6. Cultivating Sustainable Mindsets_ The Role of Educators in Garden-Based Education

In an era marked by environmental challenges and growing concerns about sustainability, the role of educators has never been more critical in shaping the mindsets and behaviors of future generations. Garden-based education offers a unique opportunity for educators to cultivate sustainable mindsets in children from an early age. Through hands-on experiences in the garden, educators play a pivotal role in guiding children to develop an understanding of sustainability, stewardship, and environmental responsibility.

Understanding Sustainable Mindsets

Sustainable mindsets encompass a set of values, attitudes, and behaviors that prioritize the well-being of both present and future generations, as well as the health of the planet. Individuals with sustainable mindsets demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic resilience. They possess the knowledge, skills, and motivation needed to make informed decisions and take responsible actions that contribute to a more sustainable world.

The Role of Educators in Garden-Based Education

Educators serve as facilitators, mentors, and role models in garden-based education, guiding children on a journey of exploration, discovery, and growth. Through intentional teaching practices and meaningful learning experiences, educators play a critical role in cultivating sustainable mindsets in children. Key aspects of their role include:

Fostering Environmental Awareness: Educators introduce children to concepts such as biodiversity, ecosystem health, and natural resource conservation, helping them develop an appreciation for the interconnectedness of living systems.

Modeling Sustainable Behaviors: Educators lead by example, demonstrating sustainable practices such as composting, water conservation, and organic gardening techniques. By modeling these behaviors, educators instill a sense of responsibility and inspire children to adopt similar practices.

Encouraging Critical Thinking: Educators encourage children to ask questions, explore solutions, and think critically about complex environmental issues. By engaging in inquiry-based learning, children develop the skills needed to analyze problems, evaluate evidence, and make informed decisions.

Promoting Empathy and Respect: Educators create a culture of empathy and respect for all living beings, fostering compassion towards plants, animals, and the environment. Through activities such as caring for plants, observing wildlife, and participating in habitat restoration projects, children develop a sense of connection to the natural world.

Empowering Action and Advocacy: Educators empower children to take action and become agents of positive change in their communities. Whether through organizing environmental clean-up events, advocating for green policies, or implementing sustainability initiatives at school, children learn that their actions have the power to make a difference.

Lessons from Garden-Based Education Programs

Garden-based education programs offer valuable insights into the role of educators in cultivating sustainable mindsets in children:

The Edible Schoolyard Project: Founded by chef and activist Alice Waters, The Edible Schoolyard Project is a pioneering initiative that integrates garden-based learning into school curricula. Educators involved in the project emphasize the importance of experiential learning, healthy eating habits, and environmental stewardship.

GreenThumb: GreenThumb is a New York City-based program that supports community gardens and garden-based education initiatives. Educators involved in GreenThumb programs focus on empowering children to become environmental stewards and community leaders through hands-on gardening activities.

The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere Program: The Nature Works Everywhere program provides resources and support for educators to incorporate outdoor learning experiences into their curricula. Educators involved in the program emphasize the importance of connecting children to nature and fostering a sense of responsibility for the environment.


Educators play a central role in cultivating sustainable mindsets in children through garden-based education. By fostering environmental awareness, modeling sustainable behaviors, encouraging critical thinking, promoting empathy and respect, and empowering action and advocacy, educators inspire children to become stewards of the environment and champions of sustainability. Through their efforts, educators contribute to building a more just, equitable, and sustainable world for future generations.


Krasny, M. E., & Kudryavtsev, A. (2013). Urban environmental education review. Cornell University Press.

The Edible Schoolyard Project. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://edibleschoolyard.org/

GreenThumb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://greenthumb.nycgovparks.org/

The Nature Conservancy. (n.d.). Nature Works Everywhere. Retrieved from https://www.natureworkseverywhere.org/