|What help can the community give?|
|“Look for people who can contribute any of the four W's - Wealth, Wisdom, Work or Weight (that is, influence).”|
|(Food Works Organization, 2004)|
School gardens are much more successful when the community is interested and involved. And it is a good idea to involve them right from the start in planning and discussing the garden. This will build commitment, spread the workload, help you to avoid mistakes, and stimulate interest in the school’s activities.
People may need convincing. Make your aims and principles clear to everyone from the very beginning. Above all, people should be able to see clearly that the garden is intended to benefit the children and the school as a whole - physically, educationally and psychologically.
A. WHO AND HOW
Here are some community elements that might be interested in the school garden. Which of them could be called on in your community? What could they contribute?
Parents and families Parents and families will become interested in school gardens if they can see the value for their children. Individual parents may act as volunteers, helping with garden work. Families can be a market for school produce. They can help with children’s “garden homework”, visit the garden and participate in talks, demonstrations, food fairs, celebrations or presentations.
Garden work can even be taken home, with families’ agreement and help. For example, if the school does not have much space, children can learn about gardening at school but actually create their own gardens at home. Or they can plant copycat gardens at home, following the model of the school garden.
Make time to introduce the garden to as many families as possible. Invite them to visit and get children to take them round. Give them opportunities to discuss the garden and make suggestions. Listen to them and make use of their expertise and experience.
What individual volunteers can do
|Organize field days, a garden clean-up day.|
|Build a garden shed, a fence, a wall.|
|Demonstrate gardening techniques, food preparation.|
|Provide transport, seeds, tools, recipes.|
|Help to cook, dig, weed, clear bushes.|
|Talk to the children about what they are doing in the garden.|
|“In Kenya, manual work is likened to punishment. But this stigma is changing because our school has made a success of the garden. The children love the garden. They eat the food we produce and are visibly healthier. Parents shake us by the hand because they can see the difference. The garden has given the school a name. The District Education Officer brings visitors to see it.”|
|(A. Choday, personal communication, 2003)|
Some parents might think their children should not get their hands dirty. It is best to deal with this attitude quietly, in the long term, just by giving status to gardening work and letting it be seen. Participate in the garden yourself, bring in well-known local people to endorse it, make the school known for its garden, and get the children to enjoy what they do and be proud of it.
Some parents cannot participate because they simply have too much to do, whether they are busy executives or overworked farmers. Get them to “invest” in the garden in very small ways - for example, donating a few seeds or some household rubbish for the compost heap. A contribution of any sort is a commitment.
The community Your local community, taken as a whole, certainly knows as much about gardening as you do! Looking at the human resources in your area will generally reveal a considerable pool of know-how. (Cederstrom, 2002)
Identify well-managed home gardens near the school and get the help of gardeners. They may be willing to show children around, demonstrate techniques, or donate seeds, seedlings or cuttings.
Find prominent local people who have gardens or make a good living from horticulture. Ask them to come and talk to school gardeners or to invite a group of children to their garden. This will raise the status of gardening in the eyes of children and families. If the speakers are ex-students of the school the effect is even greater!
Persuade youth organizations such as scouts and sports clubs to give an afternoon for a big garden clearance. Offer an educational element and supply refreshments.
|In northern Mexico a school garden project invited successful local gardeners to act as trainers and educators for the school garden. In Bangladesh a school garden project appointed a village resident to manage the garden, and compensated her with a percentage of the proceeds.|
It may be possible to collaborate with community groups involved in other garden projects. For example, in some places:
schools hand over part of the school garden site in return for help and support;
community groups run poultry projects on the school grounds, or vegetable plots alongside the children’s;
women’s clubs running vegetable gardens take over part of the teacher’s role and show children what to do;
the school garden is an extension of a community garden; in one project the community centre provided a field, a school garden manager and technical assistance to the school.
One hopes that the community can learn something from the school about growing good food, organic approaches or market gardening. If children take their learning home, everyone benefits. But be cautious about appearing to “instruct”. Regard the community as a source of expertise, and recognize local practices that have stood the test of time.
School staff In the most successful school gardens, all the school staff are interested and lend a hand. Both teaching and non-teaching staff can contribute.
The Home Economics teacher can advise on nutrition, food hygiene, food preparation and food conservation.
Business Studies teachers can give advice on sales, marketing and keeping accounts.
Other teaching staff may use the garden in their own teaching. Gardens are observatories, especially valuable for science, mathematics, environmental studies and technology, and a good stimulus for writing.
Caretakers, janitors or school gardeners should be involved from the beginning. They know the school environment well, have practical know-how and are always on the spot.
School cooks should of course be consulted (see The school meals service below).
Where food is scarce, all school staff will be happy to have a share of the food produced. However, you may want to establish some ground rules - for example, that those who contribute most should have the largest share.
|The garden can be an education in equity as well as in agriculture.|
The local food industry
Farmers, market gardens and garden centres are often glad to give advice, information and demonstrations on horticultural techniques, marketing, storing and conserving food; to contribute seeds or lend tools; or to allow children to visit and observe. If the school meals service uses local produce, contact the producers, invite them to inspect your garden and hope for a return invitation. Local shops or markets can provide outlets for selling produce, and advise on sales and marketing. Local vendors may be glad to sell garden foods as snacks.
The school meals service If there is a school feeding programme, the school meals service should be involved in discussing what foods can be grown to improve the children’s diet. There may be national nutrition guidelines or standards for school meals provided by the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Health. If so, consult them.
School cooks should be consulted about what foods are easy to cook and what is needed to improve school meals. They are usually experts on what children are willing to eat - often a problem when you are trying to change dietary habits. They can also provide peel, old fruit or bones for the compost heap. If they have a food-handler’s license, they can demonstrate food hygiene and food preparation to children and families. Try to include them in any training available.
Other public-sector services Local agricultural extension workers, farmer field schools or environmental agencies can give technical information and advice, and possibly training courses on specific subjects. Try to get the interest of the health service, which can advise on food values, children’s nutrition needs and nutritional guidelines for school meals. It is in their interest that children are well fed and healthy! The local council or the water authorities may help to build a well, install running water, advise on irrigation systems or help with rainwater harvesting.
NGOs, aid agencies, sponsors, charities, church groups
Specialist NGOs may be able to help with funds, supplies, advice, information or education.
Individual sponsors (e.g. local firms) are often glad to make a gift if they are approached courteously, understand the project and get a little favourable publicity for themselves.
Local charities and church groups reach wide audiences. Appeal to them for voluntary help or donations (e.g. bottles for preserving, planks for garden signs, sawdust for paths). They make a good audience for talks about the school garden, and can spread the reputation of the school.
The media and publicity outlets This includes local newspapers and radio. It also means places where posters can be displayed or talks can be given - for example, the teachers’ centre, the local clinic, the market, the cinema, local groups. Are there regular events (e.g. a science fair, a sports event, a college gradu ation day) where the school garden’s successes can have a high profile?
|“The primary schools in the region have a competition for best garden and for best garden plot. The prizes are awarded at the graduation day of our local university. The children go up to collect the prizes. They wear their best clothes and get very excited. It's a big event,”|
|(C. Ssekyewa, personal communication, 2003)|
These family and community contacts are set out in the table below. Use it to brainstorm what your own community has to offer.
|AS SUPPORTERS AND COLLABORATORS||AS A PUBLIC|
|How can the community be involved?||Expert advice/ collaboration, information, interviews and demonstrations||Funding, sponsorship prizes, raising status||Help, facilities, supplies, outlets, equipment, publicity||Reached through articles, homework, demonstrations, food fairs, guided tours|
|Parents and families|
|The community, the general public|
|Local food industry (e.g. cooks, farmers, shops, food services, vendors)|
|School meals service|
|Public sector services (agriculture, health, environment, local council and water authorities, etc.)|
|NGOs, aid agencies, charities, church groups|
|Local media and publicity outlets|
B. GARDEN GROUP
What kind of group can bring people together to support the garden? This depends on local communications, the school’s relationship with the community, how peole prefer to work (e.g. in groups or one-to-one), what groups already exist (e.g. parent-teacher association, school council) and how well they work, and the garden leader’s own personal preferences.
Here are some of the possibilities. Which would work best in your situation?
Informal networks in which garden leaders and children maintain personal contact with helpful and active people. This works well for garden managers who like socializing.
A “Friends of the Garden” group that visits the garden regularly, is invited to garden events and meets formally once or twice a year with children and teach ers to discuss how they can help.
A Garden Club involving children, teachers and volunteers which meets once a week for work, discussion and refreshments.
A class-based parents’ group that helps with the activities of the children’s class.
A formal committee which meets once every month or two, and includes children, parents and representatives of the school, community, local council, public services (health, agriculture, education) and the school meals service.
Special working links with local groups such as a Young Farmers Group, a youth group, a farmers association or a women’s gardening club.
Once you have found community support, the secret is to hold on to it. Garden supporters need motivating as much as students and teachers (and garden managers). Take some tips from our section on motivation (Part 12).
C. HOW VISIBLE IS YOUR GARDEN?
Make your garden “visible” - give it a little publicity. This spreads the word about good gardening and good nutrition in the community, fosters a sense of pride, and shows that the school is active and cares. Gardens lend themselves particularly well to publicity because:
they can be viewed (in guided tours and demonstrations);
they have visible and edible products (which can be displayed and sampled);
they are decorative and inspire good pictures (photos, drawings, maps and plans);
they are easy to understand, for both children and adults.
Don’t make grand claims about what you plan to do, but do not hide what you are doing.
Who should be told?
Families should know about the overall garden plan, ongoing activities, produce and profit.
The general public should see and hear what is being done at the school.
The education service should be kept informed.
Sponsors should know what has happened to their gifts.
Don’t do all the work yourself! A lot of publicity work can be undertaken by children and helpers. Children especially should be involved in promoting the garden.
Use this checklist to decide which “visibility strategies” might work in your situation.
|•||Get pupils to choose a name for the garden and display it.|
|•||Adopt a simple logo for your garden, or have a competition for one. Teach children to draw it. Put it on the poster, on your agendas for meetings, on school books, on children’s homework, on food packages, on writing paper. Display it at garden shows.|
|•||Try to make sure the garden looks good from every angle and is not hidden away in a corner.|
|Records and displays|
|•||Make sure there are photos or drawings of all important garden events.|
|•||Give someone the job of putting up a new picture/poster/news item about the garden every month in the school or in well-visited local places.|
|•||Display the Garden Poster in the school and public places, with an appeal for volunteers.|
|•||Get the local newspaper/radio to run items on the garden and garden events (e.g. results of garden competitions), with pictures.|
How much money have we raised?
|•||Show funds raised for the school garden on a “fund thermometer”.|
|•||Keep a Garden File or Yearbook to document the story of the garden. It can be shown to visitors and sponsors as well as to children and school staff. Include:|
|-||some background about the school and the|
|-||school grounds, the children and their diet;|
|-||the story of the garden - how it was established|
|-||and how the community participated;|
|-||what the garden produces and how it has developed;|
|-||plenty of drawings and photographs.|
|•||Invite the public to some garden events - e.g. demonstrations of preparing garden food.|
|•||Encourage visitors. Display a weatherproof garden map showing people where to go and a garden calendar showing activities and crops.|
|•||Invite prominent local people to visit the garden, and publicize the event.|
|•||Get nurses/doctors from the clinic to endorse particular garden products as good for health.|
|•||Send home food samples, specially wrapped, with descriptive labels written by children.|
|•||Ask parents to contribute something small (seeds? a bucket? a plant?), so they feel involved.|
|•||Talk to some good gardeners near the school. Explain the garden project, invite them to see the garden site and say you will be grateful for their advice throughout the year.|
Remember - pupils can do a lot of the publicity work
Everyone learns best by teaching!
For instance, they can:
share garden homework with their families and keep families informed about garden events;
design posters and prepare displays and presentations;
make pictorial and written records of events (with drawings, photos, plans and maps) and contribute to the Garden File;
signpost and label the parts of the garden;
help with food preparation demonstrations;
take visitors on guided tours;
maintain the fund thermometer;
write letters to schools or sponsors about the progress of the garden.
|SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION|
Brainstorm useful contacts in the community. Who would be interested? How can they help? Make a list and contact them.
Decide what kind of support group would work in your situation, and set it up.
Have a first meeting with the support group to discuss the value of a school garden, possible aims, scope and size. Keep a brief record in the Garden File.
Think of some ways to promote the garden in the community.
For future reference, take a look at the local media to see what they print/broadcast.
Outputs: List of possible community contacts and sponsors
Garden support group
Ideas for raising awareness in the community
Records of meetings
|TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS|