A school garden has many things to offer students. At its fundamental level it teaches children where real food comes from and what it tastes like. The famous TV scene from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in which first graders were unable to identify tomatoes, eggplants, and cauliflower brought home the reality of how disconnected we have become from real food. What’s more, studies show that only 7% of children eat the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables each day. As educational entities, schools can play an important role in the transformation towards better health. Studies show that school gardens contribute to students having greater health-related knowledge, willingness to try new vegetables, and preference for and greater consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Giving kids hands-on-experience in agricultural practices is not only a lesson in good health, but is also a fun way to cover many subjects, especially STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) topics. Studies have shown that students were more engaged as a result of the garden program and schools saw an average increase of 12 to 15% in students’ standardized test pass rates, with science often having the largest gains. And because of the nature of the work involved with maintaining a garden, children also get to develop other important life skills, such as patience and teamwork.
What’s more, getting more time outdoors and playing in soil is a nice break from the classroom and a great way for children to get more fresh air and exercise and to connect with nature. Gardening projects can also be a source of pride for children, whereby they become responsible caretakers, take care of the environment, and ultimately, delight in the fruits of their labor.
Of course, setting up a school garden is no easy task. It requires supplies, funds, land availability, and support from the school staff and community volunteers. However, there are many resources and non-profit organizations across the nation helping to achieve this goal, as is Farmer Frog. And in 2008, Washington State passed the Local Farms—Healthy Kids legislation, which promotes school gardens. More initiatives like these and greater funding are key to having more schools and hence, more children participate in, and reap the many benefits of school gardens.
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[icon name=”star” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Bushra Bajwa is a freelance writer in Issaquah, Washington. She enjoys running, horseback riding, and spending time with her two children and husband.