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Why should we have a School Garden?

What are the steps to plan and set-up the garden?

 1. Set the aims
 2. Get support
 3. Decide which classes
 4. Decide what to grow
 5. Find a garden site
 6. Prepare the site
 7. Make an action plan
 8. Put plan to practise
 9. Gardening methods

What can children learn in the garden?
 What are the steps to plan and set-up the garden?

A well-planned School Garden will be the most successful. Discussing the project with the children, school staff, head teacher and parents will build support and contacts and collect good advice. If the most important contributors are involved in the School Garden from the beginning, they are likely to follow the project with more interest. They may also be eager to take responsibility and actively contribute to the garden.

Following are some brief steps to plan and set-up a successful School Garden. Each point includes links to the FAO School Garden manual, where you can find detailed explanations, illustrations and tips.

1. Set the aims of the garden

What do you want to do in your garden?

It is important to have clear aims so that all participants agree on the objectives of the garden. You can record your main aims in a general mission statement. You can be ambitious, but there may be some natural limits such as lack of suitable soil and difficulties accessing water. So start small and let your ambitions grow as your garden prospers!

School Gardens can have many possible aims, but experience has shown that the following six aims are often the most important.
Illustration by Mel Futter
i) Gardening for good nutrition and nutrition education

A good diet is essential for a child's proper physical and mental development. Children who do not eat well do not grow well, and therefore may not learn well in school.

The produce from School Gardens can make a direct and immediate improvement to the diet of children. Fruit and vegetables complement and add nutritional value to regular school meals. School Gardens also provide an important setting to learn about food and nutrition, because they teach children how to produce, harvest, process and prepare food. Children also learn how to eat better and to appreciate a variety of healthy foods. If they apply this knowledge and these skills at home, this improves the health and nutrition of their family.

ii) Applying academic subjects in practice - gardening for better learning

In the School Garden, children can practically apply what they have learned in their academic subjects. For example, children can
  • calculate bed sizes;
  • predict harvests from the number of seedlings; and
  • report on their observations by writing or drawing.

    Through these tasks, the children improve their functional knowledge and perceive the relevance of academic subjects, such as mathematics, life sciences, writing and even fine arts. Gardening is a diverse and exciting activity for children, full of discoveries to make and achievements to celebrate.

    iii) Enhancing and respecting the school environment

    Respect for the environment can begin at school. School grounds usually have some elements of the natural environment; earth, plants, insects, wildlife, etc. The school's environment also includes human elements, such as sanitation facilities and buildings for recreation, studies and social life. Children's awareness of the interaction between the natural and human elements of their school will influence their interaction with their environment at home and in the community, and will help them to grow into responsible adults.

    iv) School Gardens are good for the Earth

    School gardening practices should respect and respond to the natural and social environment of the school. In many cases, organic gardening is a good alternative to common harmful practices, such as the excessive and unprotected use of pesticides. Organic gardening conserves the soil, protects the natural environment and works in harmony with nature.

    v) Developing life skills

    Life skills are personal and social capabilities that are important for the self-development of children and young people. Life skills are not always part of the official academic curriculum. Children can develop and practice life skills by working with other children and volunteers from the community. In a team, children can learn to share responsibility, cooperate to plan work and take pride together in their achievements.

    Including life skills in the School Garden curriculum is giving as much attention to growing children as to growing plants.

    vi) Developing basic business skills

    Many schools use their School Garden to create income. Although this is a worthwhile practice, care must be taken that the children's work in the garden does not affect their learning capacity or health. If garden produce is being sold, it is an excellent opportunity to teach older students basic business skills and introduce good commercial practices.

    For more information see "Part 3: What is our garden for?" of the FAO manual "Setting up and running a School Garden - a manual for teachers, parents and communities".

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    Last updated: Saturday, September 30th, 2006  FAO, 2006.