Garden-Based Learning  

"Education is the most powerful weapon which   you can use to change the world". Nelson Mandela
​The Lapham Outdoor Classroom and Community Garden


In 1998, Lapham teacher Ken Swift had an idea. Create a garden space on school grounds to extend learning to the outdoors. It was a novel concept at the time, but thanks to his ongoing efforts, and the dedication of many others who followed in his footsteps, the Lapham Outdoor Classroom and Community Garden became the first school garden in the city of Madison and continues to thrive today. 

Through the years, the garden has undergone many changes and improvements. As a result, it now features raised garden beds, a trellis tunnel, a huge raspberry patch,  a fruit grove that includes sour cherry, apple and pear trees, a large storage shed, gravel path, sound structures, tile art, as well as a number of perennial flowers, shrubs, and herbs.


Ken Swift, Retired Lapham Teacher & Garden Founder

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The Lapham garden is an outdoor classroom that strives to:

  • Encourage exercise and healthy eating through first-hand experience growing and tasting fruits and vegetables.

  • Connect students to the natural world inspiring an appreciation, awe and respect for nature – and to have fun in the process!

  • Offer students experiential garden-based learning activities and encourage the integration of garden activities into classroom curriculum that supports Common Core State Standards wherever possible.

  • Expose students to hands‐on environmental education opportunities.

  • Build community within our school by offering spring and fall workdays, picnics and potlucks; inviting our after school program to utilize the garden; and giving Lapham-Marquette families opportunities to "Adopt-the-Garden-for-a-Week" through our summer maintenance program.

  • Build community beyond our school's walls by designing a garden that offers wheelchair and stroller accessibility; inviting summer school and scout programs to utilize the garden; inviting our neighbors to participate in our "Adopt-the-Garden-for-a-Week" summer program and organized workdays; growing food and donating it to neighborhood food pantries to address food insecurity; and providing a relaxing, fun, educational garden for people of all ages and mobilities to enjoy!​

Gardener-in-Residence Program


In 2011, the Lapham-Marquette PTG began sponsoring a program in collaboration with Rooted (formally Community Groundworks) to hire a garden educator to help manage the garden and to ensure that every student at Lapham would benefit from it. This program continues to be funded annually by the LMPTG. Click here to learn more about the Gardener-in-Residence program through Rooted.

Meet the Gardener-in-Residence


Due to Covid-19, Gardener-in-Residence programming has been suspended for 2020. We hope to restart this programming when kids are physically back in school. Although our GIR programming was suspended, volunteers planted and maintained the garden during the 2020 growing season and families and community members had the opportunity to volunteer in the garden throughout the summer.  All produce grown in the garden was harvested and donated weekly to the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center food pantry. 


For information about last years programming you can review the 2019 Annual GIR Report. 


Katy Clayshulte,  2018-2019 Gardener-in-Residence

The Lapham Garden & Green Team


The Lapham Garden & Green Team works in collaboration with the GIR and meets periodically to discuss Lapham's Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden programming. All Lapham families, staff and community members are welcome to attend. Meetings are generally announced through the Lapham Garden & Green Team Facebook PagePTG Facebook Page and the PTG Email List.



  • Continue to employ a Gardener-in-Residence to guarantee the sustainability of our program

  • Maintain classroom participation and provide teachers the support they need to lead classroom visits

  • ​Assist with maintenance and improvements to the garden space

  • Increase number of garden volunteers (school and community)

  • Increase number of Garden & Green Team Committee members

Get Involved


There are many ways to contribute, whether you have a few hours to spare or you would like to make a longer-term commitment:


Questions about the Lapham Outdoor Classroom and Community Garden? Email: