Youth Gardening

Engaging students, grades K-12 and beyond, in agriculture, environmental, and food education

Through gardening and growing food, we are able to demonstrate the significance of growing food locally to improve nutrition, reduce the cost of feeding families, and teach children about the critical connection they have to the earth.


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Isles YouthBuild Garden


In 2010, a quarter acre garden was created adjacent to Isles Youth Institute as a way to engage the students through gardening. Students are taught practical agriculture skills in a hands-on way while exploring the concepts of community food security and food justice. Students and graduates work with Isles’ staff throughout the year to maintain the garden, and also assist at other community and school gardens as a way to participate more broadly in community stewardship.

Bee Colony Project

As part of Isles’ goal to educate the public and promote sustainability, Isles has established a bee colony at Isles Youth Institute.  The purpose of the colony is twofold: to provide observation hives so people of all ages may safely view bees and how their colonies function, and also to provide habitat for a creature whose value as a pollinator is under threat. The bees also serve as pollinators for gardens within roughly a three-mile radius of the hives.  Additionally, the bee colony offers a great opportunity to educate the public about the importance of bees in the environment and their value as pollinators for the food supply.

Camp Carrot

Exposure to natural, green spaces promotes learning, boosts creativity, improves physical fitness, and reduces stress. Unfortunately, urban kids spend more time indoors when access to green space is limited or unsafe, and as “screen time” increases.

In August, 2018, Isles hosted Camp Carrot, a three-week summer camp designed to excite kids about the environment, nutrition, and physical fitness. Camp Carrot explores the outdoors, developing their connection to the natural world. They water and care for plants, harvest vegetables, and cook lunch together. They also practice mindfulness, collect natural garden objects to create mandalas and stretch bodies and minds with yoga class in the morning sun.

Students explored other natural resources in the county. With a guide, they hiked up Baldpate Mountain to marvel at its views and ecosystem, explored the Abbott Marshlands to learn about water quality and creatively built outdoor shelters. We visited Howell Living History Farm to learn about history, agriculture and animals. Camp Carrot gives urban kids a chance to connect to green spaces and the natural world. They also learn ways to restore the environment where its been damaged, and learn to be future leaders. If you’re interested, help us continue to grow this project!

2018 Camp Carrot Highlights 

The Challenge

Because of the lack of healthy food access, Trenton residents face health challenges related to healthy food consumption. The growing rate of obesity has reached epidemic proportions in New Jersey, especially in low-income communities like Trenton. A study conducted by Rutgers’s Center for State Health Policy, found that Trenton ranked first among New Jersey cities with the most overweight, obese or very obese children, ages 3 to 19, at 43.7%.

Isles works with teachers and students at over twenty schools in the Trenton area. Our staff has worked directly with 700-plus students at school gardens, afterschool programs and summer camps. In addition to gardening education, Isles provides hands-on cooking workshops and lessons for both youth and families.

2018 Snapshot


Isles brings gardening and nutritional education to more than 80 elementary school classrooms across Trenton.


Worked with 814 elementary school students in 36 classrooms in seven schools.


Hosted seven school-wide cafeteria taste tests that reached 3,500 students.