Growing and gardening are not only a great way to show children where their five-a-day come from, but also have fantastic benefits for our mental health. Gardening is of course a physical challenge too, involving lots of activities such as digging, raking and lifting, all of which help us to maintain our physical strength and fitness.
Many schools link their growing and cooking activities, to use the produce grown in gardens, containers and polytunnels in dishes cooked during curriculum or extra-curricular clubs. Some have even incorporated produce grown at school into the kitchen as part of their school meals provision. There's even potential for school produce fayres and farmers markets. The possibilities are endless!
Extensive research has been carried out, documenting the benefits of ecotherapy. A study commissioned by Mind, the mental health charity, has found that there is significant impact on psychological wellbeing, by "enhancing mood and self-esteem, while reducing feelings of anger, confusion, depression and tension." You can read the research report here. Health professionals are now directing to a prescribing ecotherapies to support patients with mental ill-health, which include conservation and gardening activities.
Giving children the opportunity to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs can significantly encourage them to try foods they may not have previously tasted or may not have been so willing to before. It is a really great way of looking after our health in lots of different ways! You might like to try our new training offer for September 2017 - Promoting Positive Food Culture. This session explore food across the school environment, as well as ways in which to incorporate growing into the school curriculum and utilise the environment available.
Growing can be linked to all aspects of the curriculum in a practical way and with the benefit of working in the fresh air.
Art and Design - Creating decorative art for the garden; living willow structures.
Design and Technology - Constructing of raised beds and planters; garden landscape design and planning
English - Poetry; keeping a nature journal; instruction writing, persuasive writing.
Geography - Exploring foods grown around the world, climates, growing conditions.
History - Food production from significant periods in time; historic tools and garden machinery.
ICT - Recording and analysing crop data.
Maths - Calculating dimensions and soil volumes, crop yields, measurements, counting.
Languages - Garden vocabulary.
PSHE - Healthy eating links; mental health and wellbeing benefits; healthy recipes.
Science - Composting; recycling; food chains and webs; photosynthesis; pollination and plant production; soil testing.
If you are thinking of setting up a gardening club or you would like some further information, you may find the following websites useful:
- Growing Schools
- Garden Organic, schools pages
- Royal Horticultural Society's campaign for school gardening
- Grow Your Own Potatoes
Schools wishing to make a positive contribution to the environment can register, together with their pupils, to become an Eco School.