Our students’ knowledge of food sources and their awareness of how to grow healthy, sustainable food was developed throughout the lessons. Most of our students had some prior knowledge about gardening sustainably on which to build on. However these lessons provided a sequential structure which provided them with information and practical experiences helping them to develop a sound understanding of organic gardening, while forming opinions as to the benefits of organic gardening. While our lessons were mainly taken by our level 4/5/6 students, many of the experiences had a flow on effect to our younger students who also benefited when working in the gardens.
Each week our students are taught in a specialist class called “Sustainable Futures”. We believe in creating in our students an understanding of sustainability and environmental stewardship. The BFA lessons added value to our previous understandings about gardening and living sustainably. Understanding about the importance of creating healthy soil was a valuable lesson for our students as it brought together ideas gained from many lessons over the years such as composting, mulching, organic pest control etc. Students now understand the need for healthy soil and how to achieve it, in order to grow healthy plants. In evaluating these understandings, it is evident that students are aware of a range of organic gardening practices.
Through our gardening program we continue to improve our social and learning school environment. Students have ownership of the plantings, designs, watering, compost making, chicken care, weeding, mulching, propagation etc. This has a flow on effect in the playground as our children continue to value their beautiful gardens while they play and learn. Many teachers use the garden to work in with their students, whether it is to help maintain the gardens or to use them as an outdoor classroom. Children respectfully play in the garden and continue to be fascinated with the changes that are occurring or the creatures which share our gardens.
We have found that using this curriculum as a resource, we have been able to connect ideas about living sustainably while students learn indoors and outdoors. Our younger students have a cooking session four times a week and regularly visit the garden to collect herbs, eggs and produce from the garden. We have been dealing with our organic waste in a sustainable way for many years, composting, worm farming and feeding our chickens. Understanding the properties and science of making compost has developed our understandings of the importance of why we make compost and its benefits to our garden’s soil health.
The BFA’s Organic School Garden Program has supported our school schools in our quest for our gardening to become more sustainable. Apart from the practical Lesson Plans and Supervisor notes, it has been most encouraging to feel that we are heading in the right direction with our program and that what we do, has been validated.
Our lessons have been delivered via a weekly 50 minute lesson in a specialist subject, “Sustainable Futures”. While lessons were mainly for Levels 4/5/6, some were also made available to Levels 1/2 and 3. These have been undertaken weekly, with evaluations being sent after completion of each lesson. We are committed to using organic products and practices in our garden and have used the lessons to provide a framework for understanding organic gardening and its benefits.
Apart from the obvious benefits of our students’ increased knowledge and understanding of organic gardening our wider school community has also benefited from our participation in the Project. Our school community enjoys our gardens in a variety of ways. Aesthetically, our maintained gardens indicate that we care about and value creating a beautiful space in which our students can learn and play. Publically we can showcase what we are doing in our Sustainable Futures/ BFA lessons by visitors coming into our gardens.
We have had visiting teachers, students, wider community visitors such as an organic garden educator from New Zealand visiting to see what we are doing. Regular requests with other colleagues or through emails have allowed us to be role models for others wanting to create gardens in their schools. Through our website and our blog on our school’s sustainable journey, we connect with people all around the world and at last count have had over 12,000 visits to see what we are doing. Various posts on our blog detail our connection with BFA and how we are using the lesson and resource material.
We have also included items in our newsletter about our connections with BFA. Parents have also commented on the students’ knowledge about organic gardening and many students are using their knowledge to create gardens at home.
We regularly enter the State School Garden Awards and our students enjoy explaining to the judges why we garden the way we do, explaining the benefits to our environment and us.
This resource has covered every aspect of organic gardening and has encouraged our students to make sustainable choices when choosing food and when gardening, while understanding where their food comes from. They have learnt about the importance of healthy soil and ways to effectively garden while caring for our planet.
They have also learnt that organic gardening is not difficult, but requires some thought and planning and that it is worthwhile to create your own healthy food while looking out for the environment. BFA Organic School Gardens Program has provided the framework for all these understandings to occur.
One of our challenges we are facing at our school is simply a matter of funding. We are a small school with limited funds available for extras such as gardening equipment, seeds and tools. While we have created a range of gardens including our veggie patch, it is difficult to maintain with the occasional working bee and gardening sessions with the students. Recently another teacher has become interested in taking on some roles in the garden with her students, which takes the pressure off constant maintenance sessions with my classes. It would be wonderful to have a part time gardener to complement the work the students do, however we just don’t have the funding.