The important role of school gardens

Photo credit : Hélène CLYBOUW

School garden in The Gambia

The Root of It All: Starting a school garden


I’m working with a local elementary school that wants to start a garden for the kids. They have put together a list of supplies, but don’t really have a firm plan. Can you give some guidance on what steps they should take? — Al, Racine.

School gardens can be immensely powerful in helping teach youth about our environment, growing food, protecting pollinators, and about many other science, math and health topics. Gardens affect overall well-being, providing measureable improvements in mental, emotional and physical health. We know from countless research projects over many years in locations all over the world that gardening, and being in the garden, are healthful and potentially healing.

Photo credit: Hélène CLYBOUW - School garden in The Gambia (Sambel Kunda)
Photo credit: Hélène CLYBOUW – School garden in The Gambia (Sambel Kunda)

But gardens take planning and maintenance. And well-being is not accomplished through frustration of having a garden with no plan and no help. One of the first things I caution people about is to plan the garden and its uses very carefully, and think about long-term care. Don’t start too large; it is much better to have a successful container garden than a half-acre of overgrown weeds. Many schools do a tremendous amount of learning using container gardens; it is a great way to begin. Think big with your long-term vision of learning; start small with the physical garden itself.

Read the full article: The Journal Times


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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