Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


Motivation and ownership


  • Motivating teachers, helpers and children
  • Creating a sense of ownership

Views of gardening
Gardening is a pleasure for some people, but for others it is a reminder of a traumatic past.
(Payne, 1998)

In some places gardening is regarded as a worthwhile job and a fascinating pastime. In others it is seen as low-status manual work. Sometimes agricultural work may even be associated with colonialism or slavery. In some cases school gardening has acquired a bad name because children have been put to work as punishment or just to cultivate the teacher’s maize plot.

However, most parents and caregivers appreciate the value of school gardening on a practical level. They can see that children gain practical skills, knowledge and life skills which will help them to look after themselves and their families in the future. Schools are also recognizing that children involved in school gardening actually learn better in all subjects.

When gardening is not seen as a chore, it is deeply motivating in itself. Garden lovers are never tired of seeing the shoots come up, tasting the season’s crops, experimenting with new plants and new methods, battling against pests and diseases. The best motivation is this sense of achievement. However, other motivations may be needed to fight prejudice, to draw students in to discovering the real pleasure of growing things, or just to keep going through the less exciting garden tasks.

If there is a negative attitude to gardening in the school or community, schools may have to work to create motivation. They can do this by showing the value of what they are doing and conveying their belief in it. If, on the other hand, there is enthusiasm at the outset, it may still be necessary to maintain motivation, since garden projects last a long time and involve some repetitive work.

These are some of the reasons why good garden managers keep motivation in mind.


Everyone needs motivating. Keep everyone interested with an annual programme of events to do with the garden. Publicise the programme with a poster or an illustrated calendar. For example:

Special daysIdeas for Carrot Day
  • World Water Day - 22 March
  • World Health Day - 7 April
  • World Environment Day - 5 June
  • International Day against Child Labour 12 June
  • World Day against Desertification and Drought - 17 June
  • World Habitat Day - 5 October
  • World Food Day - 16 October
  • Each class prepares carrots to be eaten in a different way.
  • Have a competition for the best carrot dish, the finest carrot, the best picture of carrots.
  • All participants take a bunch of carrots home.
  • Have a talk on the nutritional value of carrots.
  • Create a song about carrots and a carrot dance.
  • Present a dramatization of how the carrots were planted, tended, protected and harvested.
(C. Ssekyewa, personal communication, 2003)


What motivates teachers, school staff and garden managers? For them the garden may be any or all of these things:

Make sure that some of these are true in your school. For example:

Of course, you too need to feel appreciated. Make sure your garden group and your head teacher know what is going on. If your garden is a credit to the school, the local education authority will come to visit, and will bring other visitors. Your fame will grow: you may even have to cope with envy! If there are press mentions and public appearances, share out the glory (everybody wants some) but take a little for yourself. You deserve it!


Cultivating people is as important as cultivating plants. Supportive parents and helpers can make all the difference. Here are some ways to catch and keep their interest.

Involve them Get them involved in discussing and planning the garden project, so that they are personally committed to its success. Present the garden plan at the beginning of the year and get their suggestions. Then ask them to explain the project to others: people are rapidly convinced if they have to convince someone else!

Give them choices Volunteers have different motivations and talents. Discuss what tasks need doing, but let them choose for themselves.

Get donations Ask for and accept donations of plants and seeds. Show donors how they will be helping. If possible, show them the garden, or at least a picture. Introduce them to children who can talk about what they are doing. Delegate individual students to keep track of donated seeds and cuttings and report back to the donor. Get parents to contribute small things (e.g. vegetable peelings for compost, seeds from gardens). Frequency and regularity matter more than quantity or value.

Keep in touch Invite families and friends of the garden to garden events. Keep them informed about what is going on. The cheapest and most effective way is word of mouth. Ask each person you see to talk to two others. Consult people frequently and ask their advice - and if you take it, let them know!

Say thanks Acknowledge all contributions and advice warmly. All who help and show interest should be thanked individually. Some ways of showing appreciation are:


For the children, the garden should be a place with many positive associa-Prize tions where they can:

A lot can be done to create and maintain these motivations. Here are some possibilities:

Create values

Create variety

Highlight stages and events

Encourage children to promote the garden themselves

Reward success

Garden competition
The 4H Club organized a competition in the Caribbean for the best meal or snack invented by a child from garden produce. One winning entry was a kallaloo drink with a touch of ginger.
(C. Power, personal communication, 2003)


One of the most powerful motivations is the sense of ownership. This is also an important condition for developing life skills.

Having responsibility (Motto: “Our garden, my patch”) Children should:

Making decisions and taking initiatives (Motto: “Our plan, my idea”). Adults and teachers will have to make some of the main decisions, but pupils must also be able to make real choices and decisions, both individually and in groups/classes. Help them with their choices: for example, make sure they have enough information, give them a viable selection to choose from, encourage discussion of the pros and cons.

Sharing knowledge and skills (Motto: “Ask and tell”). Pupils should be encouraged to seek information and advice from others, and to pass on their own knowledge and skills to families, younger children, classmates. This socializes and reinforces learning.

Know what is going on (Motto: “Be in the picture”). Older pupils in particular can see a project as a whole from the beginning. This helps them to plan and organize, talk about the project and evaluate it. Where actions can’t be undertaken by pupils alone (e.g. installing a water supply), they should be informed, consulted, and given the opportunity to observe and document events.


Children's health is the concern of the whole school and community. The classroom curriculum, extra-curricular activities, the school establishment and the school environment should reinforce each other and work together with the family and community to ensure that children have their basic rights to education and to adequate nutrition.

The School Garden Guide works on all these fronts - growing food in the garden, learning about it in the classroom, involving the school meals service, and bringing in the family and community to support the programme. This multi-faceted approach is the best way to successful education for better nutrition and long-term health. More than that, it may play a part in promoting not only the children’s health but also the health of their families and of the natural environment.

This Manual is not long enough to deal with everyone's needs and circumstances. We hope, however, that you have enough practical information here to start thinking and planning, a variety of ideas to suit your circumstances, and enough inspiration and good examples to carry you ahead. We also hope that you will adopt some of the watchwords of this Manual.


Use school gardensGive your garden
  • for learning
  • for interest
  • for good food
  • for pleasure
  • water
  • protection
  • good soil
  • friendly insects
See people asHelp pupils to
  • guides and experts
  • helpers
  • friends of the garden
  • willing listeners to children
  • learn, work, observe
  • eat well
  • grow up responsible and cooperative
  • respect the environment


Outputs: Garden programme

  • Display the four mottoes and discuss them with pupils, teachers, parents and garden helpers.
  • Discuss the garden programme with children and ask them to publicize it


Previous Page Top of Page Next Page