Something growing: School gardens
Over the last few years, school gardens have been popping up all over. If your school district doesn’t have at least one yet, chances are good that one is coming soon.
Credit for the burgeoning school garden movement begins with Alice Waters, the California proprietor of Chez Panisse. Almost two decades ago, she drove by a vacant lot at a school in her community of Berkeley. She thought about the happy prospect of school children growing good food in that ground and then made it happen.
Since then, the Edible Schoolyards project that Waters founded has grown and spread, particularly in large cities such as San Francisco and Milwaukee. Even more widely, other gardening projects have developed in both urban and rural districts.
In some districts, particularly those in mild climates with year-round schools, the gardens are designed to provide food for children’s meals on a regular basis. In other districts, the goals are somewhat less ambitious. However, school gardens are almost always planned as important parts of the school curriculum as well as sources of food.
At any level, from pre-school through high school, school gardens can be integrated with science curricula. Whether kindergarteners are learning that plants need light and water or juniors are studying soil chemistry, their lessons can be anchored in the garden. Lessons about weather, nutrition and other areas of science have obvious connections to gardens.
However, gardens contribute to many other areas of curriculum as well. For math students, working in a garden where dimensions and spacing are crucial considerations will be quite a lot more interesting than a worksheet on measurement.
Gardens can be rich spurs to creative activity such as drawing and journaling. Social studies classes might incorporate lessons about the foods that are traditionally important to various cultures.
In addition to curricular links such as these, gardens can provide children with physical activity and opportunities to work together and assume responsibility. Like all gardeners, they will learn lessons about cause and effect and experience the satisfaction of producing something.
With all these benefits to offer, it is no wonder that school gardens are indeed popping up all over.