How gardening in schools can change the worldHome » Blog » Holly Jean Brooker » How gardening in schools can change the world
Holly Jean Brooker looks at sustainable living in its purest form, and is encouraged by the ‘flow-on’ effect within a local community in East Tamaki.
Sustainable living is beneficial not only for the individual and the environment, but also for the community. Sustainable living has the benefit of forging new friendships, creating a sharing atmosphere and creating bridges of communication that wouldn't otherwise be there, particularly in a city context.
When most people think of sustainable living in a community sense, they think of well structured and planned communal eco-villages, such as the Earthsong co-housing eco-village in the Waitakeres, where residents share resources, residential facilities, common areas, gardens, orchards, and even communal meals.
Although co-housing can sound a little extreme, it can occur on a much smaller scale through the practice of organic gardening within neighbourhoods, in community gardens or individual residential vegetable patches. As co-director of Urban Mac I take immense pleasure in seeing schools take on the responsibility to educate young people in self-sufficiency.
Our culture breeds dependence. In an age where nearly everything is processed, packaged, marketed, advertised then bought, the art of providing for self and others in a community sense is a re-emerging concept that harks back the the 19th century. Through learning gardening in schools, these young children will learn valuable practical skills in organic gardening. Research shows they enjoy it so much that they take these skills and apply them in their own backyards, further passing on their skills and knowledge to siblings, parents, relatives and neighbours.
I was encouraged and inspired this week while talking to Nicole Curin-Birch, of the Garden to Table Trust (www.gardentotable.co.nz). The Garden to Table Trust offers a new programme to New Zealand schools, aiming to teach children aged 7–10 years how to grow, harvest, prepare and share homegrown food. This sponsored programme does not just supply schools with garden boxes. It provides schools with a regular ‘garden specialist’ who educates children on the skills and knowledge needed to grow thriving vegetables.
When the vegetables have produced edible goods, a ‘kitchen specialist’ teaches the children how to harvest and cook, using their own homegrown food. From garden, to table!
The Trust relies solely on sponsorship, with Keihl’s, a well-known US cosmetic company, recently offering sponsorship to the Trust. The Trust is embarking on a remarkable mission: to get every school in New Zealand gardening.
This programme replicates a similar programme well established (and fully funded) by the Australian Government in Australian Schools:
The Australian Government has committed $12.8 million over four years to implement the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program in up to 190 Government primary schools nationally. (Click here for more.)
This programme is much needed in our communities, not only for the individual wellbeing of children, but for the flow-on effect this scheme has for the community. Yet without Government funding it is up to individuals, groups and organisations to take up the mantle and contribute financially or with time.
Organic gardening in homes has the potential to reduce obesity through growing and eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing poverty as families are able to provide for themselves by growing vegetables from seed, and giving families a sense of bonding as they work in the garden together.
Last year, the Garden to Table Trust enabled garden beds to be set up at East Tamaki Primary School. Not only did the students here benefit from the hands-on experience of growing from seed to fruit, but the neighbourhood actually created their own casual sustainable network The school is situated in a low socio-economic area of Auckland, surrounded by state houses that look down onto the gardens. The residents of these houses ended up creating their own vegetable beds, having taken inspiration from the kids! Neighbours have begun swapping their vegetable crops at harvest time, which I believe is the essence of sustainable living: providing for self, and others, in an organic, natural and practical way.
This is a socio-ecological model at its best! It shows the power of interrelationships between individuals, the environment and the wider community, the responsible use of natural resources, and the need for interdependance as a way to share ideas, skills,and resources.