School gardens are a wonderful way to use the schoolyard as a classroom, reconnect pupils with the natural world and the true source of their food, and teach them valuable gardening and agriculture concepts and skills that integrate with other subjects, such as health and physical education as well as personal and social responsibility.
For many children, a garden offers the only chance to get close to nature. Some lack access to gardening spaces because of their living situations while others have limited exploratory free time in the outdoors due to the focus on indoor activities and participation in organized outdoor activities as such increasingly they are isolated from land and deprived from the joy and responsibility it teaches.
Most recently, we launched a School Garden Project, an after school activity at the American School Bonapriso Douala. Like most kids, this project offers them the only opportunity to grow their own food as they grow their own lettuce, tomatoes and carrots. Words can’t express the excitement on their faces to see their crops sprout to life in their little nursery pots after our struggles and panic. The benefits of a school garden are enormous to a child’s development and I have witnessed it working with these children in the last weeks;
they learn focus and patience, cooperation, teamwork and social skills
they gain self-confidence and a sense of “capableness” along with new skills and knowledge in food growing.
garden-based teaching addresses different learning styles and intelligences
For some, it will be their only opportunity to dig into the soil and watch a plant grow.
I must say it hasn’t been an all rosy journey. We failed but refused to give up; it’s hard to give up when working with kids their energy and excitement is contagious and most importantly we learned a couple of lessons. The physical act of planting their own vegetables gives them ownership and a sense of responsibility that gets them more involved. Pupils who garden get excited about tasting the fruits of their labors and they develop healthier attitudes about food, nutrition, and physical activity that can last a lifetime. They gain new enthusiasm for fresh, nutritious vegetables they grow. Neoma and Diane are excited about making salad, pizza and cooking tomato stew when they harvest; Vanessa and Ella are still thinking about what to cook!!
It is important to remember that the key to the development of children and their livelihoods are adequate nutrition and education.