1. Ownership: It is their garden and their responsibility to look after it. It was jointly decided that the garden will be watered three times a week. This is a great opportunity for the children to be aware of their responsibilities and take ownership, this is some thing I emphasised during the last classes.
2. Team Building: Often we split into smaller teams and then looked at each other’s work. Teamwork like this is a valuable lesson that can be applied in many areas in life.
3. Fun and Creativity: There was plenty of creativity as we made and decorated labels and signs for each element of the garden and all the plants. It was important to me that everybody who visited could learn from and enjoy the garden. We also had a lot of fun making bird feeders and Christmas wreaths.
Here are some examples of the skills the children practiced through the project:
Research: One week I gave them a little piece of homework, it was to research one of the plants we were growing in the garden. They then shared this information with the class. It was great to hear about the origin, medicinal properties and other random facts about some of the plants we were growing. It was uplifting to hear the children share their newly gained insights.
Observation: Each week the plants grew a little and we added new
elements to the garden. It was great to see the beans, winter spinach and nasturtiums that we had planted in trays popping through. One clear observation was the experiment between having mulch and not using it. We used straw as a mulch everywhere in the garden apart from a small area where we planted carrot seeds. The conclusion was clear.
Getting their hands dirty!: We learnt how to make compost by getting our hands dirty and doing it. Some of the students documented the process and then made a presentation to the group explaining the key ingredients and stages of making long term compost. At times it felt like a science class.
For on going success there are a couple of things I think all school gardens would benefit from:
> Drip irrigation on a timer, this will greatly reduce maintenance and deal with the tricky question of who will water during school holidays.
> Having a couple of benches that invite students to enjoy the space and observe. This helps the garden receive attention and continue to thrive.
> Using a space as a out door class room to teach other subjects, this helps to keep the garden active.
There are many lessons that can be learned from a garden and the students enjoyed the process. These students now have the key skills to set up a vegetable garden and grow their own food. This is something that they can carry through their lives. It felt great to have a small part in getting the youth excited about growing some food.
Matt Prosser 14.12.2017