Friday 23 March 2012

Schoolyard Gardens

"Interestingly enough, both human and chimpanzee children are placed in an environment which is not natural but which has been structured for them. However, the environment created for the chimpanzee in captivity was planned with more science, art and attention to their needs and potential." Aaron and Winawer: Child's Play: A Creative Approach                                      

I spent G1-6 in a small village school. I kid you not, we had GARDENING lessons on a Friday afternoon. It was probably a sanity saver for our teacher, on her own day in day out, teaching all grades. Whatever the reason, we got to dig, plant, water and weed and I doubt there was a child who wasn’t blissfully happy for the entire afternoon. There was also a school meadow, about an acre in size, where we played soccer, cricket, rounders (baseball), made daisy chains, picked buttercups, chased butterflies and  lay under the trees at the far end listening to the birds.

My children never got to have this experience. Fortunately a movement is spreading to once again have nature as part of school life in a meaningful way. Schoolyard Garden Projects go by many names but the intent is to create an opportunity for every child to play, learn and grow in nature. Regardless of academic skills all children can blossom in a garden.

School gardens can help children:
enjoy gardening
have positive attitudes to agriculture
appreciate healthy foods and change their own eating habits
respect and take an interest in their school environment

They bring together school, children, families and community in a common endeavour.
Some areas of the school curriculum are reinforced-although isn’t being out in the fresh air enough?
Gardens and green spaces provide safe comfortable places to play and socialize.

Love the idea but think it is too much to take on?
Start small with containers on the windowsill, planters and window boxes. 
If you are lucky enough to have a community garden in your neighbourhood see if you can get a plot for your school.
Know someone with a nice garden? Ask if you can bring a class for a visit.
If you have a volunteer reading program expand it into a volunteer gardeners’ program.

There are tons of places to find help and now is the time to start.  Fabulous resource! Step by step guide. Some neat classroom projects. Excellent lesson plans Another step by step guide Find projects near you (U.S.A.). Three year plan if you need to dot every "i"  etc.

Imagine a Peter Rabbit garden for the little ones, a butterfly garden, a sensory garden, a vegetable garden- do it for the kids, for the planet, for the future and have FUN.


  1. I love that you got to spend part of your school time in a garden! I think gardening lessons for all ages would be wonderful. You have some great ideas here, too. I am always impressed when I drive by a school garden. I don't see many, but hopefully there will be more in the future.

  2. Those were halcyon days for sure. As long as we garden and add beauty to the world, all is not lost.

  3. This topic has come up multiple times at the enormous (1600 kids) middle school (grades 6-8) that I work at. Here are the challenges: no one to care for it during the summer, unreliable parent volunteers, no way to get it watered or pay for the water, very little extra class time to spend going outside to check on the progress or to enjoy it. It's very frustrating. Even if a wrote a grant, I have to have proof of ability to provide water before the grants can be considered. I've heard of schools that are making it happen, but they all seem to be quite different than mine with less rigid curriculum's.

    1. CM my heart goes out to you. What an excellent example the bureaucrats and obstructionists are of childhood nature deprivation. I think all the school gardens here are at the elementary school level. I agree it pretty much all depends on having good volunteers and a willing and cooperative principal.
      Maybe I'll set up a meme called P.I.T.A. Day :)
      I have a crazy plan for sharing at Blue Moon Farm-post coming soon.

  4. I have a website dedicated to school gardening (and a blog too) as I was a primary teacher in a former life. I've just written an article about planning a sensory garden.

    My webiste and blog are both called The School Vegetable Patch if you feel like Googling and paying them a visit. Alternatively both are linked from the sidebar of my blog.

    I'm always on the look out for anyone who will send something about school gardening to include on my website in the example gardens section.