In recent years, schools have been starting their very own farms or gardens in hopes of educating their students about things such as nutrition, learning about where their food comes from, and how important our environment is. Although not all schools have the space or resources to begin a campus wide school farm, even having a planter bed where kids from each grade could plant their own herbs, fruits, and veggies would be beneficial. This is a wonderful way to bring students together and gives them endless opportunities to engage in school activities outside of the classroom. It will also encourage students to learn through hands-on activities instead of observing others or watching video tutorials.
The Importance of Teaching Nutrition to Kids
Due to the fact that nutrition is not taught to kids at a young age, that means there are a lot of students who do not consume enough fruits, veggies, and proteins in their meals since they do not know what makes up a balanced meal. The American Federation of Teachers explains that through school farms or farm to school programs, students will be able to learn about alternate food options that are healthier and begin to consume more fresh produce instead of junk food both at home and at school (2015). In addition to that, gardening at school can show students upfront about all the time, energy, and resources involved in growing their own food.
A Successful School Farm
Magic Years International School in Bangkok, Thailand is an example of a school that has created a successful school farm. Magic Years states on their website that their school farm had the ability to meaningfully impact their students’ development by helping them become more compassionate and reflective human beings. On their website, they list several benefits of their school farm, two of which includes the promotion of scientific discovery and enhancing the literacy & language skills of their students. While students were on the farm, they were able to learn valuable lessons about the various processes and systems that occur in nature. Students were also encouraged to use the scientific method to figure out how to care for the plants and animals properly by knowing what they needed to thrive. On the other hand, students were also exposed to different vocabulary terms which are often used on a farm. They were introduced to various plant and animal names, which helps them improve their literacy and language skills.
Helping Children Become Socially Aware of Key Issues
Teaching young kids about food and society will give them the chance to understand how agriculture has an impact on the health of their community (Actions for Healthy Kids, 2019). By educating them about agriculture, it will make them socially aware about environmental issues that directly affect agriculture, such as sustainability, climate change, deforestation, and waste. It is important to inform children about these issues since that can inspire them to take steps to become more eco friendly and keep our planet healthy.
The first image below shows a balanced school lunch meal from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It also provides statistics about how school meals have the ability to encourage kids to grow up healthily. The second image shows a teacher planting some herbs in a school garden with a young student.
Farm-to-school. (2015). American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.aft.org/childrens-health/nutrition/farm-school
Farm to School. (2019). Action for Healthy Kids. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://www.actionforhealthykids.org/activity/farm-to-school/
6 Highly Impactful Benefits of Our School Farm. (2018, December 3). Magic Years International School. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from http://magicyears.ac.th/news/6-highly-impactful-benefits-of-our-school-farm/
4 thoughts on “Why There Should Be More School Farms and Gardens”
School farms and gardens are something that I have always found to be very beneficial and important to young kids in many different ways. In fact, I helped start my high schools first ever garden as a senior project as well as designing and presenting a possible garden design for Brea elementary school for my final class project in Sustainable Agriculture last semester. I am passionate about this topic because I was fortunate enough to live in a town surrounded by agriculture and had a lot of agriculture education in schools, but I know that this is not the case for many students around the U.S. School gardens and farms are important because in todays era where kids lives are more sedentary more than ever and childhood obesity has risen dramatically, school gardens can and will support healthful eating to improve children’s physical well being. School gardens can play a critical role in shifting children perceptions of food and enhancing access to healthful foods which inherently aid their academic and social success as well (Shafer 2018). A 2017 evaluation of FoodCorps lead by teachers from Columbia University found that schools that provide valuable opportunities for hands on nutrition learning, students eat up to three times more fruits and vegetables at school lunch (Koch 2015). Also, A 2018 randomized control study done by Nancy Wells at Cornell University found that children whose schools provide adequate garden lessons had more access to low-fat vegetables and fruit at home as opposed to children without said education (Wells lab). Gardens have such an impact on children’s eating habits because unlike lectures or worksheets, gardens provide that hands on learning environment that excites the student and encourages them to explore and reason independently. I have always felt that a hands on learning experience is much more valuable than being stuck in a room listening to lecture, which was mainly one of the reasons why I came to Cal Poly Pomona; I believe that younger children getting that same experience can be much more beneficial for them as well.
Koch, Pamela. “FoodCorps: Creating Healthy School Environments.” https://Www.tc.columbia.edu/Media/Centers/Tisch/FoodCorps-Report-FINAL-08-30-17-v5.Pdf, 15 Jan. 2015.
Shafer, Leah. “Let It Grow.” Harvard Graduate School of Education, 31 July 2018, http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/let-it-grow.
“Research.” The Wells Lab at Cornell University, blogs.cornell.edu/wellsresearch/research/.
As someone who has benefited from the opportunity of having a farm on school grounds, I can testify to the importance it brings education in several aspects. In my final year of high school in the LA Unified School District, I enrolled in a class that taught animal and plant science. The school had a one acre plot of land that kept goats, donkeys, rabbits, ducks, a turkey, a peacock, an alpaca, and two pigs. The plot also grew various types of citrus, persimmons, avocados, peaches, berries, and grapes. Just outside the fence was the community garden that the school provided with education programs.
While other students in the class chose to work with the animals, I chose to manage the neglected garden and tree grove. In a sense this was my class project that I was determined to learn as much as I could and share that back with the class. Working on the plant portion of the farm gave me the opportunity to learn about weed & pest management, soil properties, growing seasons, mechanical equipment, growing/ harvesting food, and plant identification. At the end of the year I was able to showcase all my hard work and obtained knowledge with the class at the end of the year.
This class inspired me to pursue an education in agriculture, specifically in urban agriculture. Luckily my teacher was a Cal Poly alumni and introduced me to the ag program the school offered. This was a defining moment in my life that I am extremely grateful for.
Plenty of schools in the LA Unified School District have had the opportunity to incorporate gardens on their campuses for education purposes with the help of the California Schools Garden Network. This program offers a STEM curriculum that teaches students the importance of food nutrition, developing social skills, and environmental education. They also provide grants that schools can apply to start, maintain, and receive resources for their garden. The link to their site is listed below.
Creating a place for students to enjoy their meals while they are also nutritious, is crucial to their development physically and mentally. Having a garden or an annual garden project for students to engage with, can encourage them to want to make better choices in food for themselves. The garden in schools can provide students who do not have an abundant amount of food at home and help them not go hungry. At school they could have the garden that can be used to provide snacks, or the crops grown in the garden, can be utilized in recipes for those students.
Students who engage with the garden are more likely to keep choosing those familiar foods when they are not in a school setting. In the article, a study was done to show how much vegetables and fruit students consume during their lunch break. This study shows exactly the impact of not having a garden for students to familiarize themselves with. “…incorporating puréed vegetables into main dish entrées of school lunches could be an effective strategy to increase children’s vegetable consumption and decrease energy intake at that meal,” (Vale 2014), which can then be translated to, students having a greater consumption of vegetables because it is pureed into their lunches. If these students were already exposed to the vegetables in a closer setting either at home or in person with hands on experience, they might be able to choose more vegetable-based entrees. Creating this enticing and fruitful environment in their school and incorporating it into what they consume, can create a better relationship with food as well as their bodies for their future.
Vale, A., Julie, R. S., Cullen, R. W., & Hae, J. G. (2014). Vegetable pureé a pilot study to increase vegetable consumption among school lunch participants in US elementary schools. Journal of Child Nutrition & Management, 38(2) Retrieved from http://proxy.library.cpp.edu/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.proxy.library.cpp.edu/docview/1803159516?accountid=10357
Click to access Vegetable%20Pure%C3%A9.pdf
This video explains the necessary techniques and steps in order to successfully implement a school garden and it covers many of the concepts that we have covered in class. One such concept was the need to test your soil for contaminates and if it is polluted, there needs to be a barrier placed between the native soil and the imported clean soil that is amended and placed in raised beds created using untreated wood. The most important subjects of the interview with Chrissa Carlson’s concern the point that a school garden should not be treated like a normal urban farm because its goals are different, and education is the number one priority over yield. Of course, the goal is still for the garden to succeed and remain in production for years to come but every part of process take the students into account because their success is equally as important as the success of the garden itself. Therefore, the children have to be incorporated into planning process by taking little steps such as creating raised beds that are small enough in width for children to work in and creating a small initial garden that has some student involvement in the mapping and master plan. This is an important step that contributes to the later success of the garden because the students have been there since the initial steps, so they are concerned with continuing successful operation of the garden. Another important concept she discusses is keeping the expectations realistic which seems to be important for any community garden in considering the fact that just because you are very interested in the garden does not mean the entire community feels the same way and keeping expectations small enough to just make sure there are people who will be taking care of the basic priorities in the garden will go a long way in further expanding the garden and garnering more attention.