A Garden In Every School
Every schoolyard should have a garden. School gardens produce food, connect kids to nature, and support an active lifestyle. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook many pedagogical reasons for school gardens – could it be that they’re good for education?
Since 2010, I have been working with students on various urban agriculture initiatives and have seen first hand how school gardens support learning.
Reasons One: School Gardens Are Cross-Curricular
School gardens are inherently cross-curricular. Projects bridge disciplines facilitate engaging, meaningful, and applicable learning opportunities. Here’s a ‘back of a napkin’ list of general outcomes school gardens could cover:
- Biology Curriculum
Evolution, ecology, animal behaviour, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, weather, climate, nutrient cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus), botany, and genetics.
- Chemistry Curriculum
Organic chemistry, soil nutrient levels, solubility, pH, and medicine.
- Physics Curriculum
Thermodynamics, reflection and refraction (site design), and the electromagnetic spectrum (photosynthesis).
- English Curriculum
The use of food, nature, and gardening as symbols and metaphor within literature.
- Mathematics Curriculum
Fractal patterns in nature, tessellation’s, geometry, scale diagrams (design).
- Social Studies Curriculum
Food security, globalisation, human rights, environmental stewardship, ethnobotany.
- Culinary Arts or Foods Curriculum
Access to produce, composting, farm to plate outcomes.
- Design Studies Curriculum
Site design and drafting.
- Business Studies Curriculum
Costing, break even analysis, distribution, and marketing.
- Communications Technology Curriculum
Documenting the garden via photography, video editing and production.
- Career And Technology Studies (CTS) Curriculum
Construction of garden infrastructure; beds, benches, sheds, trellis, and sculpture.
Reason Two: School Gardens Provide Authentic Learning Opportunities
What’s more authentic than growing your food? Authentic learning allows students to perform tasks that represent skills they’ll use outside of school. An authentic learning opportunity is that happens while creating something – not through worksheets and powerpoints.
Reason Three: School Gardens Are An Opportunity For Differentiated Instruction
From design to harvest, the act of planning, installing, maintaining, and harvesting a garden requires a lot of different skills. Thus, gardening is aa great opportunity for differentiated instruction as there’s something for every student at every skill level.
Let’s take a look at Bloom’s taxonomy as it related to school gardening.
Reason Four: School Gardens Tap Into Multiple Intelligences
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences points out that there is more than one way to be “smart”. School gardens provide opportunities for students to express and grow in a multitude of ways.
- Site design, layout, and an understanding of how it will change over time.
- How should the garden look ascetically?
- How will people interact with the garden? How will they move through it?
- Does it meet the needs of the school community?
- How will the elements flow through the site? The wind, water, the sun, compost, people, etc
- Presentations to fellow students, teachers, and the community.
- How will others hear about the garden? What would you like them to know?
- How will the project be documented and shared?
- Site design and layout. Material calculations, costing, and procurement.
- How can we most effectively use the site? How can we maximise the growing space?
- What materials will we need, where can we find them, and how much will they cost?
- In what steps does the garden need to be constructed?
- Site construction, planting, and maintenance.
- What is an efficient way of implementing the design?
- Planting, maintenance, harvesting, processing
- Working closely and coordinating with others. Planning and implementing activities.
- Who is responsible for the garden? How are tasks divided up?
- How will people interact in and with the site?
- How can participation? Can other students, classes, teachers, schools, etc get involved?
- Self-reflection and analysis of site design at the beginning, middle, and end of a project.
- What about the design is working? What’s not? What modifications can be made?
- Plant and animal care. Site design and layout to ensure the needs of each species is met.
- Which species should be included within the design and why?
- What does each species need? Where should it be located within the design to ensure that it survives?
- How will these species change over time and how will it affect the garden?
- How can we ensure that the design and site is inviting?
- Is it possible to design the site’s soundscape?
Reason Five5: A Garden Is A Metaphor For Community
Gardens are webs of interacting parts and can’t exist in isolation. Gardens are connections to time, place, and the natural world. They’re a reminder that we reap what we sow and that we’re better off together than on our own.