A school garden is a garden which has been designed and created at school to provide children with fresh fruit and vegetables and an interactive hands on food education and discovery.
Children love experimenting and are naturally enthusiastic and curious which is the perfect recipe for gardening. They are not put off easily and learn quickly. Watching food grow and tasting it at leisure is a much more pleasurable way of educating children with regards to health, nutritional eating – much more appetizing that graphs of food to eat and not to eat.
School gardens are increasingly encouraging the adoption of more homemade food in canteens and also assisting parents as children learn to cook and prepare food. There are a variety of grants available to schools to set up School gardens from Government community grants to local business and community grants.
Many people may have heard about the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Project which is very successful and developed however gardens can be as simple as sprouts grown in a jar or as elaborate as full garden beds. The options for establishing a school food garden are varied as seen in the following list.
- Fruit trees in playgrounds
- Pot plants of herbs, lettuce, bush beans etc
- Integrated fruit, vegie herb and flower gardens
- Classroom growing activities such as bean sprouts
- Valuable teaching resources and links to curriculum
- Potential to develop school-community partnerships
- Provides a physical activity opportunity for students, parents and staff
- Gives students a better understanding of where our food comes from
- Assists students to develop skills in gardening, which may not be available at home
- Schools may have more space for a garden area than children have at home
- School vegetable gardens have also been very successful in motivating children to try more fruit and vegetables
- Some children who do not do well academically can be excellent gardeners.
- It helps children see the connection between seasonality, plants and food.
- It helps children to become aware of the energy and economic costs of food that has travelled to their dinner plate.
- Supports a sustainable School Environment Management Plan
- Role modelling successful ecological practises that can be seen by the local community
- Pleasure gained from planning, preparing, growing and harvesting fruit or veg!
How do you establish a school food garden?
Growing Healthy Schools … the Bangalow Experience also provides information related to establishing a food garden.
Bangalow Public School (BPS) has developed an edible garden which has become an integral part of the student’s educational experience. The original garden at BPS was a permaculture based “no-dig garden” which was small but met their needs. During this time the school was involved with the Tooty Fruity Vegie program which was a North Coast Area Health program based on increasing fruit and vegetable intake amongst primary school students.
The school began to change its focus towards healthy eating and introduced a range of strategies which promoted healthy eating. The school promoted Fruit and Veg breaks, a Kids in the Kitchen Cooking program and there was an increasing demand for more veg and fruit from the canteen. The school recognised the need to give their small garden plot a facelift.
The current garden was built with a Commonwealth Grant through the Healthy Active Australia Community and Schools Grant program of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. The grant helped fund a number of initiatives to promote healthy eating, one of which was to expand the school garden. It took three months to plan and one month to build – a process that involved consultation with school students, parents and teachers. School classes were involved with planting, making artwork and signage, and looking after the worm farm. Students visit the garden on a regular basis and are involved with garden maintenance, watering and planting.
Children’s food growing and cooking http://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/