Un jardin hydroponique qui met les élèves au centre d’un projet d’apprentissage scolaire dans une école primaire

Written by Tessa Whitby

As educators, exploring school project ideas that incorporate social-emotional learning activities is vital to helping children develop the social skills and emotional literacy necessary to thrive into adulthood. Research indicates that students who have social and emotional learning (SEL) are more likely to grow into successful adults. Gardens, as a well-being activity, enable unique opportunities for project-based learning and social and emotional learning in schools from programs to strategies. (Source)

It is important to highlight how the social-emotional well-being of students is essential for reshaping the future in a way that puts the value of individuals, and the stability of their environment first. By encouraging learners to work together, communicate, and find creative solutions that lead to positive outcomes, it is possible to cultivate student engagement, curiosity, and motivation in ways that can help children grow up to be responsible, forward-thinking individuals who value themselves, their peers, and their environment. (Source)

Promoting social well-being of students and inclusion through project-based learning

Garden projects in the classroom offer unique opportunities because they allow educators to explore a multitude of options for student group work, and social skill development in a safe, inclusive, learning environment. Learners are able to share common goals throughout the school, work together as a full class, as well as in smaller groups, or in specialized workshops. Considering the various potential group work options, and the array of hands-on lessons to choose from, it also offers great opportunities for inclusive curricula that extend to individuals with special needs or learning disabilities. (Source)

Those familiar with the five core competencies of SEL, created by CASEL, understand the importance of utilizing group work in a way that empowers individual strengths and needs, while also encouraging social well-being. By emphasizing cooperation and ensuring children feel valued and supported, learners are able to exercise self-awareness and self-management skills. Garden projects offer students the opportunity to better understand social awareness and relationship skills by learning how to welcome diverse perspectives, communicate, and share responsible decision-making through teamwork and problem-solving. (Source)

It is critical to provide opportunities for learners to explore problematic social and environmental issues around them, and offer an outlet where they can see a measurable, positive impact from their actions. By supporting the power of action in students and nurturing their social-emotional well-being, we in turn can affect the environments and communities around us, as well as the future itself.

Go-green project ideas for school that cultivate curiosity and the power of action

When exploring project-based learning ideas for high school, elementary, or middle school learners, garden projects offer a multitude of opportunities through collaborative group work that can help cultivate curiosity, and encourage the power of action by working toward common goals. Here are some examples of possible project-based learning activities and goals:

    • Food Bank Donations, or Fundraisers: Schools can choose to donate their harvests to food banks, or choose to sell the product and give the money to a cause of their choice. Students can decide whether they want to provide the produce in the whole form or prepare it into something different. Allow the learners the power to elect the best way to distribute any profits back to the community.
    • Baking, or Cooking Projects: Growing produce not only offers avenues in STEAM subjects and SEL, but it also reveals the importance of having a deeper understanding of nutrition and health. By using harvests for baking, or cooking projects, learners can further explore these areas while also developing skills that are necessary for independence and overall well-being. Let the students decide what to do with what they make!
    • Compost Projects: Organic waste is inevitably a big part of gardening. By starting a compost project, students are offered the opportunity to explore the science of soil health, biodiversity, and how to make use of what’s left over and inedible. Though the urban garden project is most effective as hydroponic, and therefore soilless, it still creates an opportunity to explore options of what to do with the product. Projects such as this could have the potential to extend to other parts of the community beyond the school, such as a community compost collection project, where the youth is in control of the outcomes. Whether learners decide to sell it at a fundraiser, donate it, use it on-site, or take it home to make their own gardens, offering them the power to choose the outcome is an important aspect.
    • Career Exploration Projects (High-school level): There are many different career pathways made possible through the knowledge discovered in school garden projects. For older students, career exploration projects offer an exciting way to explore green career options that might be of interest to them. These projects will allow them to research outlets where they will be able to exercise their skills and focus on their individual strengths. The main objective is to help them discover their independent interests and goals, as well as expose them to the different garden-related or adjacent possibilities in the job force.

Margaret Mead may have said it best when she said “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think”. It is the responsibility of communities and educators to help guide younger generations toward creativity, inclusion, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and sustainable mindsets that can help naturalize solutions for the future. ‘Social-Emotional Learning In School’ not only offers enrichment for students, it offers a pathway to learn how to navigate the future through the obstacles created by the past in positive and effective ways.

For educators and school staff members looking to create innovative learning spaces that prioritize well-being alongside academic success through project-based learning, Vireo’s hydroponic garden project as a well-being activity in schools can help integrate social and emotional learning across disciplines and grade levels, as well as include special education curricula. Through a multitude of options for student group work and school project ideas, we can more effectively prepare individuals with the strengths and skills necessary to thrive into adulthood. Along with the necessary tools and materials provided, Vireo also offers a unique interactive digital platform that provides educational content and ideas acclimated to school learning environments. Contact us today to learn more!