There is immense value to a garden or allotment provision in both nursery and school settings. Gardening at school benefits everyone, from pupils to teachers to parents and even the wider community. The set up can be as basic or complex as you want it to be and there are some fantastic online resources to help support your programme. Let’s talk about why you should be gardening at school with your pupils and then point you in the right direction to get started.
What are the benefits of gardening at school?
It’s well known that gardening is good for our general wellbeing. The combination of being outside in green spaces and taking the time to care for plants is good for us. Many adults and children find gardening to be therapeutic and rewarding. As educators we value the whole child and we all know that a child’s overall wellbeing is just as important as meeting the demands of the tested curriculum.
A school garden can provide a space for children to learn without realising it. It lacks the pressure and routine of a traditional classroom for pupils. Children who spend time gardening are likely to be happier and will respond better to the other aspects of their school day. Gardening is an activity that requires pupils (and teachers) to slow down and be in the moment, something that is good for everyone.
Children benefit greatly from prepping for, planting, caring for and harvesting vegetables, fruits and flowers. Gardening ticks a lot of boxes for children’s health, the physical activity is great for their bodies and the mindful nature of caring for plants can be an excellent support for their mental health.
Mental health support
Simply being outside is a good thing when it comes to positive mental health. Add in the powerful act of caring for another living thing and gardening is a proven powerful tool for our minds. Children respond well to learning outdoors and a garden setting provides a structured, ongoing project for them to set stuck into throughout the school year.
There is no better way of connecting your curriculum with the real world than being out in the real world! Pupils retain more information when they physically engage with their surroundings and are happier when they learn outdoors.
There are endless possibilities to connect gardening with curriculum content. From science, maths, art, english, geography and beyond – it’s all there in the garden. Have a look at the list below for some useful resources to get your juices flowing!
Healthy eating habits
You are what you eat. We’ve all heard that one over and over again and as cliche as it is, it’s true. When children grow their own food they learn how it is grown and what is good for them to eat and why. Gardening is a powerful, practical way to develop healthy eating habits from a young age. Children who eat well are much better equipped to succeed at school with improved concentration and energy levels.
Learn where food comes from
Lots of children don’t know where their food really comes from. They see it on the supermarket shelves ready to buy but find it hard to make connections to the farms, fields and factories where food is grown and produced.
When they are involved with gardening at school or home they make those connections. Children are able to draw conclusions about the environmental impact of the foods they eat and the interconnectedness of ecosystems. This is important as children start to make choices about what they eat and where they buy their food from.
Nurture nature lovers
Children see nature at work first hand when they are gardening. They see butterflies flutter by, bees visit flowers and caterpillars nibble on leaves. They see the effects of the sun and rain on how plants thrive and struggle. They learn about the seasons and our place in the world. Children who spend time gardening connect with nature and are more likely to develop a lifelong respect for our environment.
This is only good news for our rapidly warming planet with endless challenges ahead. We need children and young people to care for the environment and the school garden is a great place to start.
Caring for a pet teaches children about responsibility and the circle of life, gardening does the same but with lower stakes. It might not be possible to have animals in residence at school or at a pupil’s home therefore similar lessons can be taught in the school garden. Pupils must make sure their seedlings and plants needs are met to grow to their full potential.
Children who learn to manage responsibility are better able to navigate group work, busy schedules and homework. Plus, it teaches them life skills that will help them beyond their school careers.
There are countless opportunities to extend a school gardening provision into the community. This year, we have seen pupils harvest potatoes and sell them to raise money for charity and older children provide snacks, using the produce they’ve grown, for younger children in their town. Children feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they help others. Gardening at school offers something for everyone.
Perhaps you already have a school garden or allotment but would like to shake things up with some new activities? Or maybe you are feeling inspired to start a gardening provision at your school in September? Either way, here is a list of useful resources to dig into (pun intended!)
Free Online Resources For Your School Garden
There is a lot of information out there about gardening for schools but it’s easy to get lost on the internet! Here are our favourite online resources to support your gardening provision at school. Give us a shout if you have a resource that should be on this list and we will add it.
RHS Campaign for School Gardening
One the best sets of resources out there. It’s great for all ages and relates directly to teachers and schools needs.
The Wildlife Trusts Resources for Educators
The WT has some lovely, easy to follow activity resource worksheets for nature-based and gardening focused outdoor activities. It’s a good idea to explore this site to bolster your idea bank!
This scheme won’t be going ahead in 2022, but there are still some nice worksheets and other teaching materials to help you grow potatoes in your school garden.
There is a tonne of information packed on this site. Resources are sorted by age and it shows you direct links to curriculum content too. It’s well worth having a look.
This is a treasure trove of easy to use resources for teachers covering everything from composting to propagating. They have some really nice posters to print off too.
Remember your school garden can be as simple as a few pots. The important lessons are still there in a small garden area and your pupils will benefit no matter the size.
What SOuL can help with?
Don’t be shy, we have a few tricks up our sleeve at SOuL. We can work with you to plan out your outdoor space at school to factor in a garden or allotment area. We build those areas for schools or simply share advice and tips to help you along the way. Reach out to us for training sessions and resources to support your outdoor learning too.
Send us a message here to talk more.