School is the place where the young generation develop skills, knowledge and competences. It’s the place where people in general start their learning pathway. The presence of a garden in a school can bring an added value to the entire didactic program and bring together families, students, teachers and the Institution itself.
A garden can be a tool that helps people to meet each other and encourages cross-disciplinary cooperation among the teachers.
To bring an added value to practical activities in school.
To learn about the life-cycle of nature, to bring students closer to a natural environment.
To combine the activity of gardening with learning at school (and cross-disciplinary knowledge ...): speaking and writing, observations, history and geography, biology, representations of time and space, values of mutual assistance, sharing work and space, artistic and cultural expression (art...).
To use the gardening project in the school as a starting point for other projects.
To build cooperation among teachers, staff and parents.
To create a learning environment with different tools and activities to that of a traditional one.
To develop management skills and cooperation.
A piece of land in the grounds of the school.
The school environment is a setting where it’s possible to introduce new learning activities, but sometimes it requires a lot of organization and time to introduce this kind of innovation.
The best time to propose the project is at the end of the school year (April – May), during which time there is the scheduling of the next year’s activities.
It’s important to find a group of people (teacher, parents or organization dealing with the topic) that can support and enhance the proposal in the eyes of the Head of the School and the other teachers.
1) Find a piece of land in the grounds of the school or a community garden located outside of the school that would welcome the classes.
Be sure that it receives sun at least for half of the day and that there is a water supply close to the garden.
2) Clarify your learning objectives : For what reason do you want to introduce gardening activities? What is the innovative aspect that a garden can bring? What learning needs do you want to answer?
3) Find out what partnerships you can create inside the school (other teachers, school custodians) and outside the school (organizations that deal with the topic, parents, external persons).
INSIDE THE SCHOOL
The other teachers can support the implementation of the activity, the organization of the timetable; they could also give some hours for the practical activity and involve different classes of pupils/students.
If you have a school custodian or caretaker, they may be willing to ensure a certain continuity of the garden, in particular its maintenance and water irrigation during summer time, when the school is closed
OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL
To have an external organization dealing with pedagogical activity in a garden can bring support in terms of knowledge and experience in running the activities. It is suggested to develop activities that respond to non formal educational techniques, active methodology and participative methods.
To involve the parents of the students/pupils or external persons passionate by gardening, can be a good initiative to create an inclusive environment and open the school setting to possible future projects. External persons and parents, as well as external organizations, will make the project visible outside the school and can ensure a continuity of it.
1) Internal meeting
Organize a meeting with the partners involved, in particular teachers and/or external organization, and together clarify expectations and learning objectives, availability of each partners, organizational issues, financing and a draft of the program activities. If you can count on an organization, it will be easier to build a program. If you have the competences and your role as teacher allows you to follow the activities in the garden, be sure that you can deal with the committment.
The document should contain clear objectives, people involved, implementation of the activities, number of classes involved and students, methodologies and required budget.
This first draft document will help you to better clarify your project and make it easier to involve other people.
2) School meeting
Organize a meeting with the head of the school, teachers that could be interested, the eventual external association.
Define common expectations (teachers, association behind the project) and specific projects for the garden and for the school year;
- Define a schedule of classes for the garden;
- Create a document outlining the possible ways of working in and around the garden and safety considerations. For example: harvesting olives from their trees, a schedule for the cleaning of the premises. Parallel activities to implement: cultural work (journalism, deeper knowledge of vegetables…) and artistic (poetry, photography, theatre, drawing, cartoon, making articles...)
3) Parents meeting
Organize a meeting with the parents of the students involved and present them the project, as it has been planned during the previous meeting. This meeting is important to reassure the parents about safety rules but mostly for their involvement in the project. Explain to them that their own proposals or suggestions would be welcomed and that the garden should be a common place where everybody is able to make a contribution.
Plan an exhibition about the activities you carried on in the garden, it can be a party at the end of the school year or an open day dedicated to visiting of the garden. There are many other activities you can add to gardening (poetry, photography, theatre, drawing, cartoon, making articles...). Plan a final activity with the classes and the teachers’ responsible, where the students can tell, draw, act and/or express what they have learned and discovered, thanks to their activity in the garden.
In June, July and August the school will be closed but during these months the garden needs water and harvesting also!
Try to keep parents and the school custodians involved in the maintenance, you can suggest they bring their children too, in this way the students will also feel responsible for the project.
Evaluation of the people involved and monitoring of the team work
You can plan to organize regular meetings, lasting around 1 hour, with the adults involved (teachers, parents, external persons), during which you can schedule the next activities, speak about any problems or success and coordinate the team.
Evaluation of the competences acquired by the students
There are several activities you can organize for evaluating the learning process of the students.
You can use an active non formal methodology (intermediate evaluation and final evaluation, cf. Permacutlure Course in School).
You can also use formal methodology for verifying the knowledge acquired.
N.B. In that case you can coordinate the activity in the garden with the school program about plants and life cycle of the nature, science subjects, biology, chemistry,
Plan your garden project in advance and involve as many people as possible. If you are a teacher speak about the project to your colleagues in an open way, explaining to them the connection and the innovative pedagogical approach to use.
It is possible to propose activities in September too, when the school is planning the annual scheduling of activities.
If you do not have a school caretaker or custodian for the summer time, it would be possible to install an automatic irrigation system.
Gardening is an inclusive activity. Try to also involve disabled students with their carers and/or support teachers. They can be a valid help and bring a new perspective compared to the other teachers.
If you know senior people or experts in the field of agriculture it can be interesting to ask them for a story-telling lesson with the students, where they can share with the new generations stories of the past.