Providing Hope also offers tailored programming to special needs students. Our fully-accessible gardens are a place where students who sometimes struggle in a traditional classroom can bloom along with the vegetables. Teachers report that students show less stress and are more engaged in learning and in socializing with their peers in a garden classroom.

The garden allows for a multi-layered approach to special needs education. While it presents a hands-on environment, it encourages fine motor-skills and coordination. The rituals that are inherent in gardening, are reassuring to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder who often center themselves with repetitive behaviors and do well when they know what to expect.

Gardening also provides social benefits in ways that are non-threatening: it is possible to be an integral part of a communal project even if socializing is difficult, to know you are part of a team helping to feed people in your community, that you are a peer to everyone else because everyone eats, that you can work alongside someone else with ease when you can talk about the garden. All of these boost self-esteem.

Our mentoring program pairs an older peer student, often those who have been marginalized by being labeled “at risk,” to allow for one-on-one interaction and opportunities to connect on many levels. The younger students enjoy individualized attention and the older students gain a sense of purpose and responsibility.

Employing successful strategies used in behavioral health therapies, our programs use the natural ecosystem of an organic garden as the ground in which to plants seeds of future success. Skills learned in the garden teach confidence and self-reliance, which we hope lead to marketable skills and employment.