By Lucía Muñoz
FAO maintains that school gardens are a very useful learning platform to improve children's education and nutrition, while at the same time promoting the conservation of the environment and the social, physical and mental well-being of the entire educational community.
The need to create school gardens and its objectives
In industrialized countries, intensive agriculture and current eating habits have increasingly harmful effects on our health and on the environment, while many underdeveloped countries do not have the means and sufficient training to achieve an agriculture capable of feeding to all people sufficiently and safely.
Together we can ensure that school gardens play a significant role in the fight against these problems that threaten today's society: food insecurity and climate change.
For this, it is necessary to promote habits that improve health, such as a healthier diet, and nutritional, agricultural and environmental education that makes children aware of the need to change things, since future actions and measures to eradicate depend on them. these problems.
The objectives of school gardens should be aimed at responding to these problems and needs. According to FAO and other national and international organizations, they should be the following:
- Improve the quality of education through a more dynamic pedagogy that includes multidisciplinary study plans that combine theoretical, practical and technical knowledge of livelihood.
- Strengthen practical skills in agriculture and horticulture through the creation and maintenance of home gardens.
- Provide active teaching linking horticulture to both play and recreation, as well as other subjects such as mathematics, biology, reading and writing.
- Provide practical nutrition education that encourages the production and consumption of healthy foods and a healthy lifestyle.
- Increase access to education by attracting families to schools that address issues that affect their daily lives.
- Increase the nutritional quality of the food children eat and reduce the number of malnourished or undernourished children.
- Improve children's attitudes and knowledge of agriculture and rural life.
- Educate in environmental sensitivity contributing to the sustainability of the planet by including an environmental and ecological training (See article on Ecological Agriculture).
- Offer students an instrument for survival or support for the family economy for times of food shortage or economic difficulties.
- Especially in underdeveloped countries, increase school attendance and, in many households, compensate for the absence of parents in terms of transferring the knowledge necessary for the vital development of children and young people.
- Promote income generation opportunities.
- In cities, improve the urban environment and sustainability.
Benefits of school gardens
Many of them are related to the objectives to be achieved, but many others are added benefits that arise as a result of the development of agricultural activity in schools. School gardens:
- They are beneficial for learning: “I listen and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand ”(Confucius, 551-479 BC).
- They promote the knowledge of varieties of fruits and vegetables that were unknown to the children and / or their families.
- They provide a place to acquire knowledge related to nature, agriculture and nutrition.
- They improve the diet and are a healthy, natural and varied source of food, important for the physical and mental development of children.
- They help to fight against problems related to infant feeding: obesity, malnutrition ...
- They represent a space for enjoyment and recreation within the school.
- They promote entrepreneurial skills.
- They improve the environment and sustainability of cities.
- They contribute to the regeneration and conservation of the environment and its resources.
- They favor socioeconomic development.
- They are an important social tool since the teamwork of boys and girls in class groups takes place in them, as well as their interaction with teachers and families, developing ethical values of coexistence, participation and collaboration.
- It increases the relationships between human beings and nature.
- They reinforce the knowledge of basic subjects such as reading, writing, biology or mathematics.
- They improve the intelligence of children.
These are just some of the benefits that school gardens can represent for the lives of children and the rest of the educational community.