The main purpose of this OSOS accelerator is to raise interest and sensitize learners of a broad age range in (organic) school gardening experience and practice on cultivating plants and/or developing a viable agro-ecological culture. It aims to provide children with opportunities to think and act as conscious and contemporary citizens, agro-ecologists, within a viable development of societies, which grow plants organically in harmony with the environment, in respect of contemporary local and global agricultural economies and healthy eating habits. In other words, incorporating agriculture and organic gardening in the classroom helps learners understand how humans interact with the environment and how food is grown. Furthermore, agriculture and school gardening promotes awareness of a healthy lifestyle, helps learners master even demanding STE(A)M concepts, and exposes citizens to agricultural job opportunities. By designing, cultivating, and harvesting organic school gardens, children experience deeper understanding of natural systems and ecosystems and become better stewards of the earth. Nevertheless, unlike some other activities they participate in during their school years, gardening is an activity they can participate in for the rest of their lives. On a personal level, gardening builds confidence, self-esteem, and pride as children watch their efforts turn into beautiful and productive gardens. It also teaches them patience as they wait for a seedling to sprout or a tomato to ripen. Through gardening, children help to beautify the school grounds and develop aesthetic skills. The praise they receive from peers and classmates, parents, teachers, and community members will enhance responsibility, create a sense of community spirit and perhaps introduce them to the benefits of volunteering, active citizenship and community solidarity. The challenge for the teachers is to provide an adequate and didactically transposed framework of approaches on organic agriculture and organic gardening. Acting as a mentors and facilitators will investigate together with children ways of developing an organic school garden and alongside with the aid of experts and on-site study visits, design and develop such a garden. Teaching and learning activities will include investigations, experimentation and inquiry-based activities, constructions, gardening practice, open exhibitions etc. All children and school community members are to be included and participate in gardening activities, an indicative set of which is described below. Learners and teachers become passionately involved in all sorts of activities of the school garden, encouraging their interests within open (also authentic) teaching and learning environments.
We started building a school garden at the back yard of our school about 12 years ago and ever since it has become a year-round educational programme, with impact in the lives of learners, teachers, school communities and organizations. It has turned out to be a long standing commitment, which promotes innovation linked with formal, non-formal and informal teaching and learning activities, alongside with the building of open communities of practice for sharing common interests, knowledge, skills, competences and the joy of learning in the field. Indicative objectives are the following:
- to develop basic knowledge for the structure, formation and function of a(n) (organic) school garden
- to recognize basic plant categories such as groceries, aromatic plants, flowers and to discern their characteristics
- to cultivate plants in raised beds in the school garden and become young farmers connected with the food production process
- to observe and describe the development of plants in a "seed to seed" approach
- to construct smaller or bigger greenhouses and cultivate seed plants, in order to start organic gardening processes
- to take care of the plants throughout the seasons of the year and learn about the cycle of jobs that need to be done in a school garden
- to be able to confront pests and plant diseases in an organic/natural way, with simple materials and substances, without the use of conventional pesticides
- obtain deeper knowledge about organic gardening and deeper understanding of co-cultivation of plants and plants communities.
- to recognize the basic elements and advantages of organic fertilizers
- to make their own organic fertilizer through the process of composting in the school garden composters
- to discuss and become sensitized on the role of plants in contemporary nutrition habits
- to collect traditional recipes and cook their own meals in conventional cookers and/or solar cookers
- to dehydrate fruits, vegetables and herbs for food preservation in solar dehydrators made out of card boxes
- to discuss about the energy resources of the school garden and become sensitized on water preservation issues
- to write stories about the school garden incidents and experiences throughout the year
- to make artifacts, paintings and art about school gardening
- to write and perform theatrical scenes/play on school garden episodes
- to develop active citizenship and solidarity though voluntary work in the school garden and with the sharing of garden crops with fellow citizens in need ... etc
This is an (inter)thematic/interdisciplinary topic/OSOS accelerator, which interweaves nearly all subject domains of formal, non-formal and informal education, ranging from Science, ICT, Mathematics, Technology & Engineering to Language, History, Arts, Physical Education etc.