How garden work is organized will depend on your aims, the school traditions, the age of the children, how many teachers and classes are involved, how much time you can set aside for garden work and your own preferences. Most schools with gardens reckon on each class putting in one to two hours a week, with pupils taking on occasional extra responsibilities for an extra half hour to an hour a week on a voluntary basis or in rotation. Most also organize some special sessions for major works such as ground clearing, when they invite volunteers and helpers from families and the community.
However it is done, make organizing work an opportunity for involving pupils, to develop their sense of responsibility, independence and capacity for collaboration and organization.
A. HOW DO WE ORGANIZE THE WORK?
Bear in mind that the school’s role is to protect, respect and facilitate children’s right to education. Children are in the garden to learn, not to provide cheap labour, and garden work must be seen as a learning experience. There are many ways of distributing garden work through the school, but they should be evaluated in this light. Here are some possibilities:
1. Everyone in the school cares for the whole garden
Classes rotate through different plots or through different tasks e.g. Class 1 this week looks after the cabbages, or does all the watering). Garden records are kept for the project as a whole, with classes contributing according to their tasks.
This arrangement makes it easy to organize communal tasks (e.g. classes take turns to turn the compost) and means that all classes get experience of all the crops. It works best if there is a strong sense of communal responsibility. The disadvantages are:
there are no personal or small-group responsibilities and therefore less scope for a sense of ownership and personal pride;
there is not much variety of work for each child - and hence less to learn, and less interest;
you can't run competitions between classes, groups or individuals;
it needs whole-school coordination.
2. Each class has its own garden Each class works separately from the others, with some coordination to avoid overlap. The class can be divided into teams or groups which can work on their own beds and also contribute to communal tasks. A garden diary is kept for the whole class.
This arrangement can foster class pride. Separate class gardens means children can have easier or more difficult projects according to age. For example, a junior class can do simple flower pots while a senior class grow, bottle and sell fruit. This makes it possible to develop an increasingly complex garden curriculum through the school grades.
3. Groups/teams have their own plots Small groups of students have their own plots. They choose their own group names (e.g. the Blue Boys, the Green Fingers). A group may grow just one crop (easy to organize) or several different crops (more interesting and educational). Each group keeps its own records - a file, diary, etc. Communal garden tasks are shared between the groups.
This arrangement has many advantages:
It gives a sense of ownership and continuity;
It encourages personal and group responsibility;
It makes it easier to assess work;
It makes control experiments possible;
It is flexible - small groups can have small plots and larger groups can have bigger ones
It encourages emulation - most farmers learn from seeing what their neighbours do!
4. There are some individual plots If space permits, individual pupils or pairs of pupils can experiment with their own crops or methods. This opens up many possibilities. For example, give individual plots as rewards for good gardeners, selected by the teacher or the class. Or set aside a few small plots each year and get students to bid for them with well-developed project proposals.
5. Assign managers and monitors Delegate some garden management to older pupils. A “garden team” of two boys and two girls can help to organize work and supervise activities. This role should be seen as an honour: special badges will help. Each month the team briefs a new team and hands over.
Individual students or small teams can specialize in particular communal responsibilities, with impressive titles such as Pump Engineer, Tool Manager, Security Team, Compost King. Pupils should be able to call on these “specialists” without always going to the teacher for information and advice. Such specialists can also take a hand in training their successors.
6. Create a School Garden Club Keen students can participate in a garden club, meeting once a week as an extracurricular activity. Parents and volunteers also belong, and can accompany younger children. The disadvantage is that your group may be small; the advantage is that they will be enthusiastic, and there will be plenty of sharing of experience.
Children as young as six or seven can carry out simple tasks such as collecting mulch, carrying weeds to the compost, and watering and washing vegetables. But they should also have their own responsibilities to prepare them for bigger tasks when they are older. Give them small but complete projects - for example, looking after three flowerpots or two fruit bushes, growing a cabbage or six carrots alongside the main crops, picking and serving perfect papaya / pawpaws.
→ Which of these would work well in your situation?
B. TEAMS AND GROUPS
Teams or groups of five to seven pupils are convenient for organizing work. There are many ways of organizing teams, more or less flexible and more or less self-governing. For example:
→ Which of these would suit you and your students best?
C. SCHEDULING THE ACTIVITIES
Scheduled garden time may be used for trips, interviews, market research, taking produce for sale, cooking, demonstrations, parties, food fairs, showing visitors around. But in most regular garden sessions children will be doing:
1. Routine garden work and communal tasks Try to get the garden to run itself.
Regular structure It will help to break up garden sessions into segments and have a regular structure - for example:
(Adapted from Kiefer and Kemple, 1998)
Once children have an idea of what to do, make a point of asking them what needs doing (rather than telling them) and encourage them to come up with suggestions themselves.
Rotating tasks If a task requires the teacher’s presence, organize activities so each group cancome to the teacher separately. For example, there could be 20-minute blocks on a) writing field journals, b) weeding/watering, c) working with the teacher on how to deal with mealy-bugs, with the blocks in a different order for each group. In the same way, if equipment or facilities have to be shared, organize them so that one group is working on something else while another is using the equipment.
Planning the week’s work If the week’s work needs to be scheduled, get children to do it. Display the regular garden tasks on a list or a wheel (see the Box below) and discuss which ones are necessary this week, how many people are needed for each one, and how long it will take. Teams choose tasks, organize their own schedules and decide how to share the work. If work rotations can’t be avoided, create them together so everyone understands them.
Garden Job Wheel
What needs doing this week? Groups choose tasks by putting their team token in the appropriate segment.
Group work schedules Older students may use a proforma checklist, date it, tick off completed tasks and file it in the Garden File. Teams may draw up their own work schedule (see Box below).
|A team's work schedule|
|Three students, J, K and P, have their own small plot. They put in two half-hours a week in the garden with the whole class, a half-hour garden lesson in class, and another half-hour in their own time. This week they want to water their plot, measure growth, check for pests, and spray if necessary with their homemade spray.|
|Their communal contribution will be turning over the compost and helping to fix the fence. P and K plan to stay on Friday after school to water so that their plot doesn't dry out over the weekend. J, who lives near the school, is going to pass by on Saturday to see if his spraying has had any effect. He is also going to write up the week's report. In the Thursday class, the group will prepare a display of bugs and insects found in the garden.|
|This is the schedule they have drawn up for the week:|
|Gardening work||Watering K||Watering & spraying PJ||Watering & weeding PK|
|Checking and recording||Measure growth J||Check for pests J||Write report J|
|Communal work||Tunr compost P||Fix fence K|
|Classwork||Insect display JKP|
2. Monitoring, recording, documenting
Children should inspect their crops every day - on the way to class, during breaks, or going home. Establish the habit early in the year by leading the whole class out for five minutes every morning until the pupils get the idea. Move on to independent inspections, with feedback reports to the class by groups or individuals. Younger pupils can observe and report orally; older students can collect measurements and data and can produce weekly reports to be kept in a portfolio or in their group’s Garden File (see Box on the next page). Keep the class interested by enquiring after the health of particular plants by name, and asking for suggestions.
If students wish they can specialize, and organize;
A week's report
|Week beginning||Jobs done|
3. Recreation, creativity and socializing
Make garden sessions pleasurable and social. Have a break for a garden snack, a game, a story, a song, a puppet show, a short reading, a look at an interesting bug or plant, a sensory awareness activity, some artwork (e.g. pressing flowers and plants, making mosaics).
→ What routines will suit your students and also get the work done?
D. RULES/GARDEN ETIQUETTE
|Some “Garden Rules”|
Garden rules are not laws to be enforced by garden police but a code of practice, a culture of good garden behaviour which everyone understands. But most practices need training and pupils need reminding before they become automatic. With this in mind, encourage children to make and maintain the rules themselves. For example:
→ What is your school’s attitude to rules? What are children used to?
Photo © Mel Futter
E. GARDEN SECURITY
Predators may be chickens, birds, goats, wild pigs, buffalo, elephants and monkeys - to name just a few. Or people! Discuss garden security with all and decide on what measures to take and when they will be needed (see Protecting the garden in the Horticultural Notes). Finding or creating the most effective scarecrow or bird scarer makes a good competition.
If your garden projects start afresh at the beginning of each school year, you do not need to keep the garden going through the long school vacation. If not, discuss with students, parents, helpers and caretakers what maintenance is necessary over the holidays. Some precautions are:
→ What measures can be taken to protect the garden? How can students and families help?
|SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTION|
Discuss and decide how garden work will be distributed, organized and scheduled.
Outputs: Plans for organizing, scheduling and documenting garden work
|TIPS AND IDEAS|
|•||Have a Garden Opening Ceremony:|
|-||Get a local celebrity to “open” the garden by planting the first plant.|
|-||Invite everyone, including the local press.|
|-||Provide some refreshment.|
|-||Display a picture or plan of the garden as it will be.|
|-||Outline the garden programme for the year.|
|•||Young children can practise a rhythmic chant of garden rules - for example:|
|We walk on the paths and not on the beds.|
|We share our tools and help each other.|
|We keep tools off paths and sharp parts down.|
|We clean our tools and put them away.|
|We know what we're doing; we garden well!|
|We wash our hands and wash the food.|
|And now we're ready to eat!|