It’s estimated that school gardens first appeared 200 years ago, in 1819. The movement swept across Europe throughout the 19th century, becoming crucial during the First and Second World Wars to support food production in the UK.
After the dire need for additional food production had passed, gardens started to fade from schools. Today, there has once more been a surge in popularity for the school garden, and the teaching potential that comes along with it.
The Benefits of Teaching Gardening
There are many educational opportunities and unique experiences that come with school gardens and teaching children to grow their own food. Here are five ways that students can benefit from gardening:
1) Gardening Teaches Many Key Skills
Creative thinking, ability to adapt, and problem-solving are just three of the key skills that children learn when they’re directly involved in gardening. By learning how to nurture a school garden, children also learn how to work as a team and be responsible.
2) Gardening Provides a Unique Educational Experience
Gardening provides a unique experience where children can observe and learn about plants and nature. By growing their own food, children gain a more in-depth and hands-on experience that they can’t get from a textbook.
3) Gardening Encourages Healthy Eating
Research has shown that children are five times more likely to eat vegetables when they’ve been involved in growing them. Learning about healthy food and having a hand in growing it, introduces children to healthy food choices early on. By planting different fruits and vegetables, children also broaden their knowledge of crop varieties.
4) Gardening Teaches Environmental Awareness
Being involved in growing food teaches children about the environment and sustainability. Spending time outdoors can increase an appreciation of nature, and encourage children to learn about the food chain, water cycle, and the environmental impact of food choices.
5) Gardening Is an Educational Tool
Gardening is a very useful life skill but establishing a school garden can also help children to learn other skills from a range of subjects. From measuring flowerbeds in math class, to learning about water and energy cycles in science class, the whole school can use a school garden as a great educational tool.
Should Gardening Be Part of the Curriculum?
The well-explored benefits of gardening for student development shows that gardening can be an incredibly valuable tool in schools. Growing food can form a central part of the entire curriculum, and the increased time spent outdoors could even help children to achieve more – research has revealed that exposing children to the outdoors earlier in life can lead to higher achievement.
Many schools in the UK are already firmly onboard with the idea of teaching gardening and encouraging children to grow their own food. Campaigns, like the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening, have had significant success, with thousands of schools signing up to bring gardening back to classrooms.
While gardening is not an established part of the curriculum, it has been shown to have an important place in a successful school environment.