|Three school garden skills|
|“You need to know only three
things to run a successful
|(Guy et al., 1996)|
Running a school garden requires not only horticultural knowledge but also “people skills” and common sense. Other useful qualities are enthusiasm, organizational capacity and a flair for publicity. You need to plan and manage, find resources, get help and support, keep in touch with those involved, organize garden work and lessons, motivate people, and publicize garden achievements.
However, garden leaders do not have to do all this themselves. Good garden management means building up the school’s capacity until the garden can almost run itself. Older pupils show younger ones what to do; routine tasks are carried out automatically; helpers see for themselves what needs to be done.
A. PRELIMINARY QUESTIONS
Here are some questions that are frequently asked.
1. Who will be responsible for the garden?
The “garden leader” or “garden manager” may be a school principal, an experienced teacher or an experienced gardener from the community. She or he should be backed by a small team who between them have commitment, interest, experience, authority and contacts: for example, the head teacher, some parents or community members, a few students, a school inspector, a health worker, the school caretaker. Later a wider network of helpers and supporters can be built up.
The garden leader should have a colleague who can act as a deputy when necessary. It is also a good idea to establish an executive team of senior students who are able to carry on without much supervision.
2. What will we need?
Starting needs are discussed in Part 5. For tools and equipment, seeds and seedlings, the cost need not be high. If you start small they can be acquired over a few years. Often equipment can be borrowed, and sometimes you can save your own seeds. Local plant varieties, adapted to the local climate, are cheaper as well as safer. Organic approaches cut the cost of fertilisers and insecticides.
One expensive item is a secure garden shed. Even more important, and sometimes costly, are water and fencing. You must be able to irrigate your crops and protect them from predators. You may be able to get a grant for this kind of investment from charities, sponsors, government or aid organizations. But remember that pumps, pipes and fences need maintenance. If you have no regular funding, the garden needs to make enough money to cover its costs.
3. How big will the garden be?
Your garden could be anything from a window box to a field. The size will depend on the space available. If the school does not have suitable grounds, there may be space in a community garden, or on waste ground along the road.
Size also depends upon your aims (discussed in Part 3). If education is your main purpose, it will not matter if you do not have much space. A few plants are enough for experimental observations (for example, studying germination). A single bed 1 m × 2 m will produce token quantities of food. Three or four small beds can make up a model kitchen garden for demonstration purposes. You will need much more space if you want to produce a significant quantity of food or do professional agricultural training.
Whatever your aims, you have more chance of success if you start small. You can always expand later. Even with a small garden, you will also have more success if you have a variety of crops, not just one or two.
4. How will we decide what to grow?
This depends on your aims (see Part 3). The main garden projects in this Manual are about growing food to eat and growing food to sell. In general, choose crops and trees that are adapted to local conditions, easy to cultivate and fit into the school term. Your crops should fit in with local food habits, be easy to prepare and have high nutritional value (for example green leafy vegetables and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables). In any case, children should be involved in deciding what to grow.
5. Who will do the work? Much of the work will be done by the children. They should be helped by volunteers (parents, community members, students, ex-students of the school) and by the school janitor/gardener/ caretaker if there is one, especially for the heavier work (e.g. preparing the site).
But the bottom line is that children are learners and not a labour force. They must enjoy their time in the garden and learn from it. It should not be an unpleasant chore or punishment. The garden should also give children opportunities to take responsibility, make decisions, plan, organize work, collaborate, evaluate and publicize. Class time should prepare for these responsibilities.
6. How much time will it take?
Class time Ideally, lesson time and garden time should be matched one to one. Lessons are for discussing and explaining, planning and organizing work, setting up experiments and observations, and documenting garden activities and events. To maintain a small garden and get full educational benefit, a class needs about an hour of garden time and an hour of lesson time per week, with a little “garden homework” in pupils’ own time.
Teacher time depends on the size of the garden. The job of garden manager is also very elastic! Apart from organizing garden work and lessons, and helping children, it can involve encouraging volunteers, setting up garden events, contacting sponsors, finding supplies, organizing tours, keeping accounts, writing reports and attending meetings. A good garden manager will delegate work to responsible pupils and to a garden support group.
7. What training do we need?
This depends on what knowledge and experience you already have. If possible, arrange for the head teacher and two or three others to have a training course in basic garden management, nutrition, organic gardening methods and project - based learning across the curriculum. Think about involving school cooks and caretakers too. Training can be organized by someone from the agricultural extension service, a knowledgeable parent, an NGO, or the education service.
Whoever receives training should pass it on to others - for example, in informal meetings. This reinforces the training, spreads the knowledge and protects the garden programme from losing its only expert.
8. What support will we need?
Support from the school Most important of all is to have a supportive head teacher and the interest of the whole school - the teachers, support staff (e.g. caretaker, cooks, secretary), the school council, school meals service, parent-teachers association and governing body.
Support from the local education authority The active support of the local education authority is very desirable (although sometimes it may come only after you have established your garden!). They can put you in touch with special funds, organize inter-school competitions, give advice about management, recommend teaching materials, make timetable space for garden lessons and call on the health and agriculture sectors for technical support. They can also inform you of any special rules about managing funds or maintaining school premises. Persuade them to set up a network of schools with gardens and to facilitate exchanges between them (e.g. with visits and newsletters).
Support from the community School gardens are very visible and attract local interest. They therefore do best when they have support and help from families and the community. Most schools are surrounded by experienced gardeners.
Support from Teachers Centres Teachers Centres can help with resources (e.g. teaching materials, information about crops) and provide a place for schools to meet and exchange ideas.
Support from other services Finally, you need good technical assistance from agricultural extension services, farmer field schools, the health service, NGOs, etc.
Keep all interested parties informed about what you are doing, and consult them frequently. Make the school garden a regular item on the agenda of school meetings.
9. How do we get people to feel positively about the garden?
Support depends on attitude. In some areas there is a long tradition of passionate home gardening. People want their children to learn the skills of growing food, flowers and trees. If gardening has this positive image in your community, you can build on it.
But often gardening is seen as just hard dirty work, not as education. At worst, schools may be accused of aiming to keep children tied to low-paid agricultural jobs. If this is the attitude, then one of your main tasks will be to change it. Many ways of giving the garden good publicity will be discussed in this Manual - for example, involving families, focussing on education, building a sense of pride and showing that gardening can improve our health and wealth. Your basic advantage in these efforts is that children find growing things and producing delicious food genuinely exciting and rewarding.
|Support and success for disabled children|
|Divina Misericordia is a school for disabled children in Lima, Peru. The school has its own garden, which grows lettuce, beets, carrots and broccoli. Everyone was involved from the beginning: the director, the teachers, the students and some parents built the garden from scratch. When they started, there was nothing but sand and dirt. They cleaned it up, brought in soil and installed an irrigation system.|
|The school director Elvira Pacherres says the children are passionate about the garden. “Gardening is now part of the curriculum and it works as therapy for these children. It shows them how easily they can have access to food if need be, and it gives them responsibilities. Often, these kids are put aside in the family… here they learn to contribute to the household. Some grow their own little gardens at home too.”|
|(FAO Telefood, 2004b)|
B. SECRETS OF SUCCESS
Some of the secrets of success are set out in the box below
|The school garden will thrive if it has support from:|
|Involvement and contacts|
|It will help if you can:|
|It's a good idea to:|
|The project will work best if you:|
|Technical and pedagogic support|
|Do your best to:|
|SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION|
Consult the head teacher about the idea of a school garden.
Decide who is to be the “garden leader”.
Find out how education authorities, health services, agricultural services and the local council can support the school garden, including funding possibilities.
Explore the possibilities of training for school staff.
Start informal discussions about a school garden with school staff, parents, the community and the school meals service. Write down ideas, and make a note of feelings and fears about garden work. Do not commit yourself yet to a particular aim or plan - keep the subject open.
Ask the children! Find out what they think about gardens, gardening and garden food.
Outputs: Ideas for the school garden; notes on problems, risks and attitudes.
|TIPS AND IDEAS|
The poster illustrates the wider concept of the garden: