The Harold School Garden Project
The Harold school garden project was established in 2009. Over the last five years teachers, children and parents have worked together to transform a small area of ground (approx 7 x 15 m). By converting a patch of grass into a productive garden we have also created a highly stimulating and interactive educational resource. The aim is simple, to provide the opportunity for all the children to have access to this resource and to experience gardening.
In 2008, Lucy Bell, Niamh Ni Dhuill and Aine Ni Flatharta working with The Kerry Earth Education Project and Irish Seed Savers Association published ‘The Year Round Organic School Garden : A Guide to Designing, Creating and Using an Organic School Garden’. This book has been very inspiring to us. It provides both the principals and the practical outline to establish and run an organic school garden project. We have drawn from this book especially to illustrate many of the values of the school garden.
The organic gardener grows vegetables, fruit, herbs, plant flowers, shrubs and trees without using any chemicals, sprays, fertilisers or anything that will harm the environment. An organic garden aims to create a variety of habitats and eco-systems, encouraging wildlife and bio-diversity. In practice organic gardening promotes recycling, nourishing the soil and allows nature to establish a balance.We can use the organic principals of our school garden to link to the more global issues.
“A school organic garden is a practical, long lasting and sustainable response to the current environmental issues of climate change and sustainable development education. It provides the medium through which issues such as Carbon footprints, Fair Trade, Sustainability, Global Warming, Climate Change, Peak Oil, Food and Seed Security and Food Miles can be examined. By bringing these lessons in bio-diversity and food production into the heart of the school system, it is ‘think global, act local’ in action.”
(Bell, Ni Dhuill & Ni Flatharta The Year Round Organic School Garden The Kerry Earth Education Project & Irish Seedsavers Association Living Classroom Publications 2008.)
The school garden project also links the with other ongoing programs such as The Food Dudes Programme, Discover Primary Science Programme, Green Schools, Heritage in Schools, National Science Week, Incredible Edibles etc. It also is cross –curricular for over 70 % of the primary school curriculum particularly tying in with the curriculum under SESE, SPHE, art, languages, literacy, history and maths.
When running the garden project we need to be mindful of curriculum requirements, especially recent measures being introduced to focus more on literacy and numeracy. We feel that rather than taking the children away from these important skills, the garden project can find creative and enjoyable way to address these additional requirement almost without the children ever knowing!
An Bord Bia’s web site is a wonderful resource addressing all these issues at length, in detail and in relation to the gardening with children. They provide lesson plans and curriculum links which will be most useful to teachers.
The Garden Team
The Harold School garden project has been developing over the last five years. After many meetings and productive work days clearing, building and maintaining our garden we now have over 60 parents who volunteer their time and enthusiasm to be involved in this project. We have realised that small teams of parents working with individual teachers and their classes works really well. This way of structuring the project allows parents to work with their own child’s class and teacher. By organising the garden project in this manner all the children get to take part and the work and time involved is spread across many eager volunteers. The 8 year plan has been developed to ensure that these mini projects followed a structure so that by the end of their time in primary school the children will have covered a wide range of gardening tasks and experiences.