What is a school garden program?
School gardening programs are usually personalized educational paths that include all the necessary equipment, pedagogy and support to create a garden and directly involve students in their learning.
Specialized companies work alongside teachers and schools in order to create green gardens. Each educational establishment has different objectives for their school garden project, so gardens can be adapted (seeds, equipment, etc.) depending on your specific needs and intended uses.
Why should schools have gardens?
In recent decades, urbanization has been increasing as populations continue to grow and people shift from rural to urban areas. This has impacted the speed of technological development in cities and communities.
As schools adapt and transform into a new technological age, they have to find new ways to stimulate the creativity of their students and leverage different educational approaches to keep them engaged.
Indoor school gardens are a great way for students to learn about healthy nutrition and environmental matters hands-on. They can also be integrated into a wide array of subjects such as science, math, social studies, geography and more.
School garden programs encourage students to be more actively involved in the classroom due to immersive lessons. Overall, integrating a school garden in your school will encourage a happier and healthier learning environment for the children.
Key benefits of school gardens
Having a school garden is an invaluable tool to teach children integral life lessons. The analogical possibilities that stem from an indoor garden are endless, which allows teachers to convey important lessons in a practical and interesting way all year long.
The unconventional learning space of the hydroponic garden allows some lessons to be learned more effectively than the classroom allows for. For example, nutrition is easy to understand when children can see and touch the food they eat. Teachers can more easily explain the need for healthy food and eating habits as children learn to grow their own crops.
You can also take advantage of your school garden to provide life lessons such as cooking. Encouraging children to make their own school lunch from the food that they have grown makes them feel a sense of achievement and teaches them an important life skill. Plus, this gives you the opportunity to link this lesson to farm to school organizations to teach students the importance of locally grown produce.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to the life lessons you can teach children. You can be as innovative as you want!
Greater social skills
In addition to the academic benefits that come with implementing a school garden, there are also many social benefits. Having a green space in schools offers a communal area for children to learn and bond. School food gardens encourage skills such as teamwork, self-awareness, communication and responsibility, all of which are integral in building meaningful relationships with people.
Improved academic performance
Creating a school garden offers hands-on learning opportunities for children. Teachers are able to organize different activities that encourage active learning which is not always possible in traditional classroom settings where children generally interact with screens or read aloud and listen to their classmates and teachers.
Students do not all learn in the same way. The garden creates a different learning environment and students who are less stimulated by theory might feel challenged and motivated by this innovative educational setting.
School gardens use gardening tools and different crops so that students can learn how to plant, care and harvest different fruits and vegetables. They help children gain a better understanding of cultivation by directly involving them in the process, from the moment the seed is planted to the moment the crop is harvested. As a result, children are more engaged and motivated to learn.
According to research, students that participate in school garden programs parallel to their traditional classroom curriculum, achieve higher grades in science-related subjects that students who only learn in traditional educational environments. Indoor school gardens benefit both boys and girls equally.
Children that are raised in urban settings rarely see or eat fresh produce. Thankfully, school gardens help children understand plant growth first-hand and experience how seeds develop from sprouts to flowers and then to fruits. By fostering a connection between students and nature, indoor school gardens make it possible for children to nurture respect and concern for the environment.
In fact, according to research, students that are involved in school garden programs are more likely to develop awareness for environmental conservation and become interested in environmental issues and gardening (source).
Nutrition knowledge and health
Children generally have limited knowledge regarding the correlation between nutrition, health and exercise. Unlike traditional classroom activities, activities organized in school gardens involve physical activity as children are encouraged to move to take care of their plants.
Indoor gardening also encourages healthy eating habits in children since school garden programs generally use the crops they have grown for student lunches. They also often incorporate nutritional education in their curriculum so that children become more open to eating fruits and vegetables. According to research, these healthy eating habits persist into adulthood (source).
Tips to start a school garden
Choose your site
Choosing a site for your garden is the first step in your school garden journey. It’s important to pick a location that has sufficient space and is completely accessible to all students.
There are also the logistical elements that you need to consider when choosing a site such as the safety regulations of your school. Once all of this is sorted out, and you’ve found the perfect location for the garden, you can then begin to think about the more exciting aspects of your new school garden.
Design the garden
Aside from actually using the garden, designing it is arguably the most exciting part. Although we encourage you to collaborate with teachers and students to get an array of school garden ideas, it’s impossible to please everyone. It’s therefore helpful to gain external advice from experts in hydroponics so that they can help you during the design process.
In the design process, be sure to establish the ultimate goal of your school garden. Keep in mind that a school garden holds many possibilities. You may want it solely to grow food, you may want to create a butterfly garden or an entrepreneurial project… it all depends on your priorities. Whatever you choose, it’s important to decide at the beginning of the process as it will largely dictate how you should design your space and project.
The current state of the world calls for sustainability to be incorporated wherever possible, and school gardens are a brilliant opportunity for this. Organizations such as food tank emphasize the importance of creating innovative solutions for agricultural issues, which can be done, even if only on a small scale, in your own school garden.
Including things such as a compost heap or a water butt not only has a positive effect on the environment but also instills ideas of good environmental practices in the minds of children. These can be used as teaching points to encourage children to have a positive effect on the environment.
Interested in a school garden project?
If you’re interested in school garden projects, Vireo can help you from A to Z. Our team provides you with a solution adapted to your reality and needs.
In addition to a vegetable garden, our school garden program includes support, material to maintain and cultivate the garden and access to the educational platform for the whole school. Our solution combines education, support and expertise in hydroponics.