What is the purpose of a school garden?
Children spend most of their waking hours in the school environment. With heavy emphasis on standardized testing and curriculum, recess is now cut down to perhaps an hour to hour and half every day.
With the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes, schools have a key role to play in trying to address this issue. A garden can help in this cause. Schools can help in teaching children about healthy nutrition and healthy lifestyles. A link with an outdoor classroom is an important step.
Outdoor classrooms can be linked to the curriculum of a school. There is nothing a child cannot learn from gardening. Outdoor classrooms have the potential to teach children in an experiential way. This is a hands-on way to teach children in real time about issues that affect them and their lifestyles. It teaches children about their place in nature. Children can learn science, math, geography, history, nutrition, literacy and creative arts. A school garden can teach the students to have respect for healthy food, respect for nature, respect for themselves and for others.There are many curriculum links online and books on curriculum that can be purchased. One such book is by a local teacher called Shirley Niemi.
The benefits of school gardens can last a lifetime. Students can be taught about healthy lifestyles and what they eat. They can learn about the origins of food, plant life, community values, work, and how to prepare and eat the food they grow. They can learn about composting and bringing their food waste to the garden, learning about lifecycles and eating in season.
There is evidence that students spending time in school gardens and green schoolyards attain higher grades on standardized tests and students also behave better when back in the traditional classroom.
Linking the garden to the school curriculum gives all students and teachers the opportunities to work outside. This can help the garden be part of the school and raise awareness and pride within the school. The local school can be the focus of the community. Perhaps community groups can also use the outdoor space and have a garden to tend. This could also help with Summer care for the school garden.
School gardens have the opportunity to delight and motivate students. To build a strong school community and neighbourhood, that reaches out to adults and children alike to build up a sense of place and belonging.