IMPORTANCE OF SCHOOL GARDENS
If all you think of when you hear the word, garden, is beauty, then this post will interest you. There’s more to the word than its aesthetic benefit. One expression that beautifully describes the way we should view garden is “Gardening, bringing nature home.” Nature is where home is. It contains all the intrinsic and extrinsic vitals for our survival. We have lost nature a long time by our anthropogenic behavior, no thanks to industrialization. And for most of us in the inner city, not only do we have to cope with polluted air, but also “visual” pollution- massive structures, developed or dilapidated and uncleared refuse, and so on. To appreciate how nature-deprived we are, consider the dependence of a healthy body on food: a body that lacks vitamin and minerals suffers heavily and soon degenerates. That is what happens if nature in its green potential is eliminated from human existence. No oxygen, no life, and nature plants offer this in overwhelming abundance that is being threatened.
But you must consider the green revolution that is somewhat sweeping across the globe to be reminded of the value mankind places on his environment. Now, we must appreciate technology-so many cities in the world are wearing a green look, even our own Lagos- parks along roads are turned into gardens. Man is working to “synthesize” nature, but not in its “wild” element. This would bring me to the definition of the term “garden.”
Let’s go the Merriam-Webster way; a garden is a plot of ground where herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables are cultivated; a public recreation area or park usually ornamented with plants and trees. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. As we look around us we notice that a garden can either be for ornamental purpose where only flowers are grown, or for food purpose, or even for both. If you live in Lagos, you will see examples in Yaba and Surulere and on the Island.
Gardens are very useful. I remember vividly in my primary and high schools how warming the sight of lands cultivated for crop by students were! Though, I don’t remember my teachers or any one calling them gardens, they sure represented our contact with nature. It was always an engaging task then having to plant and manage your row. Nothing like that exists anymore in our modern schools where we keep our pupils and students in protected and well tiled spaces. It appears these days that most students may see gardening as something for the elite, and sophisticated industries or done only by expert gardener. Their hands don’t know nature. We are changing that narrative.
School gardens Benefits
School gardens are a wonderful way to use the school backyard as a classroom, reconnect students with the natural world and the true source of their food, and teach them valuable gardening and agriculture concepts and skills that integrate with several subjects, such as math, science, art, health and physical education, and social studies, as well as several educational goals, including personal and social responsibility (Green Heart Education, 2017).
As we consider the theme of environmental sustainability it is critical to explore the benefits of gardens in our schools.
School gardens as an antidote against nature-deficient disorder
It has been observed that modern children are constantly engaged with indoor entertainments and are at risk of what Louv (2008) described as “nature-deficit disorder.” Recent research funded by Disney shows that 65% of U.S. parents see it as a “very serious” problem that their kids are not spending more time outdoors. According to the survey, this is equal or a close second to their concerns about bullying, the quality of education, and obesity. Preschoolers spend about 12 hours a week outside, and by the age of 16, children are spending less than 7 hours a week in nature. Louv (2008) argues that as a result of lack of exposure to the outdoors, children may suffer from lack of attention, diminished use of the senses, and even physical or emotional illness. The Trail of Hope post reported that teachers view school gardens as a more convenient way of increasing a child’s appreciation for outside. School garden therefore, sets the mechanism for children’s interaction with nature.
School gardens accelerate school nutrition
Concerned about how children respond to wholesome food? Studies show we can get school children to gravitate towards the right kind of nutrition, consumption of fruits and vegetable if they are exposed to gardening. Parmer, Salsibury-Glennon, Shannon, and Struempler (2009) demonstrated that students which had gardening integrated into their curriculum had the highest preference for fruits and vegetables and ate more of them during lunch. In addition, as I described from my school days, when students are allowed to plant themselves, they share in the joys of having to plant a garden and become personally connected to the growing process. This would increase their appreciation of nature and responsibility to protect it.
School gardens breed environmental awareness
With school gardens, it is possible to inspire environmental consciousness and secure commitment of children to protecting their environment. Environmental awareness among students will help create a legacy that could be passed on to generations. Whatever we are aware of directs our thinking. Hence, to get students to evolve novel ecological ideas for sustainable environment we must embrace the culture of gardening in our schools. And how powerfully beautiful to see students hands-on in gardening! Think for a moment: Our students go to schools without gardens, or never get involved in planting a garden, either in a box or at a little corner in school, they get home and all they see is the big screen or the small screen within their palms. There is no environment awareness. Reversing these attitudes would bring the desired maturity in thinking among students concerning the environment. It is high time we got innovative on this.
School gardens help develop the whole child
Several researchers have shown that gardening increases academic and interdisciplinary skills. In their investigation about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Project Green Reach (PGR), Morgan et al. (2009) reported that gardening can be an effective teaching tool in many different areas of academia, such as science, art, and even home economics. Gardening also improves the cognitive power of students (Blair, 2009). In a study, it was also found that growing plants and friendships are connected. Students in a program, the Project Green Ranch garden program demonstrated team spirit, communicated their ideas about the garden, and speak in front of their peers (Morgan et al. 2009). They learn self-confidence.
School gardens engender home participation in schools
Gardening can help secure participation of parents in school volunteering. We all seem to have that thrill that gets us to confidently tell at home our accomplishments.
This is also true about students’ participation in gardening and parents can be encouraged to visit schools and volunteer.
School gardens can make learning practical
Gardens are also necessary in schools because they are tools that could help learning math, science and reading interesting. For examples, students can learn measurements, growth and processes or terms used in gardening. We can stretch our imagination with garden and offer the student an excellent way to learn something new. Achievement scores improve because learning is more relevant and hands-on.
School gardens are therapeutic
The school environment presents such overwhelming radiance of peace for the mind and body, call it aesthetic therapy! We need the cool and clean air that emanate from gardens. Thus, gardens improve our school environment for learning and teaching.
In behavioral research conducted at Rutgers University by Jeanette M. Haviland-Jones, it was shown that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods and have an immediate impact on happiness, a long term positive effects on mood, and make for more intimate connections between individuals.
So, we see that school gardens are necessary for environmental sustainability, total development of the child, involvement in outdoors, securing matured interest of students in the environment and for tranquility. In Lagos-Nigeria, we are building gardens in schools, to help solve food insecurity, environmental-health challenges, nutrition, education, and pollution problems. We need to build more and we need your help!
FABE International Foundation is a not-for-profit environmental health organization passionate about the establishment and improvement of an eco-conscious generation committed and dedicated to the restoration, conservation, environmental sustainability, and protection of the environment. Our mission is to promote environmental sustainability, by engaging our youths and women in the identification, exploration, and facilitation of sustainable eco-solutions to problems caused by the impacts of climate change, affecting the health and environment of people and biodiversity in Nigeria through advocacy, education, youth development, women empowerment, community engagement and participation.