City farms provide children an opportunity to learn about ecology and create their
Community gardens and school gardens. Recreation and education.
Food for the soul and food for thought. At the start of the last century, almost 80
percent of the population were raised on farms. What a reality teacher! Now cityfolk in
both the developed and developing world are recognising the values and ethics of an
agrarian lifestyle. City gardens can aid both urban planners and educators.
|LEARNING FROM SCHOOL GARDENS
|SCIENCE: ecological literacy
ECONOMICS: rural and urban
POLITICS: rich vs poor
HEALTH: nutritious food
We do it together
In community gardens people share land to grow plants, exchange resources, socialise and
cultivate a sense of "community". Empty lots, apartment complexes ground or land
next to social centres, land near temples, mosques and churches can be converted to
community gardens. These gardens become valuable green spaces in densely populated
Such gardens are mushrooming even in the US. Local
residents, tired of vacant land, trash, and crime are transforming vacant lots into
community green spaces with vegetables, flowers, sitting areas and playgrounds. It is
estimated that there are 15000 organised community gardens in the US. A reason for their
growing popularity is that they address the unique needs of the particular neighborhood.
Also, many such gardens are environmentally sound. That's because community gardeners are
often immigrants from developing countries or rural areas. In some cases, they can't
afford commercial fertilisers and pesticides. So, they practice sustainable ways of adding
nutrients (composting and intercropping), conserving water (mulching, mounds and furrows),
and controlling pests (like the use of marigolds to repel nematodes, use of soap solutions
in place of commercial pesticides).
Rural gardeners retain traditional practices that were
developed before industrial agriculture.
We all learn together
Growing children and growing plants gel well together. It helps them understand the
connection between their health, the food they eat, and where it comes from. In addition
to that they learn plant science and ecology. School gardens have been known to increase
their confidence levels too. Through simple science experiments and hands-on activities,
schoolchildren are able to see, smell, taste and touch plants.
Many of our schools offer students cold, concrete school
yards with chain link fences that make schools look more like prisons. By transforming the
school ground to include nature, the learning opportunities literally come alive. Schools
need to redesign their play space to provide students with a healthy and safe place to
play, learn, and develop a genuine respect for nature and each other.
Extracts from a report
based on research done by Oliver Ginsberg, Chairperson of the Association of Adventure
Playgrounds and Cityfarms (AKiB) in Berlin, on ninety such projects across six countries
in Europe what they contribute to sustainable urban development:
It was the Danish landscape architect C. Th. Sorensen who
first recognized the importance of "skrammellegepladsen" (rubbish playgrounds),
which should give children access to various construction play materials and the
possibility to create their own play environment rather then provide them with already
furnished, neat play sites.
In the official programmes of sustainable development
children and young people are obviously neglected. Within the 500 pages of the
"Agenda 21" the world "child" or "children" appears just
about 60 times, while the word "government" is used more than 1000 times! They
are usually just mentioned in connection with social infrastructure like schools or day
care centers. Their specific (play) needs are hardly mentioned, neither their need for
open space within the city. The fact that adequate play space tends to disappear from the
cities even within the frame of "vitalization" and "interior
development" simply has no impact on the minds of many political decision makers.
This kind of play deprivation however is a very important part of the reason for
increasing health problems and juvenile violence as has paradoxically been acknowledged
most strongly in the US lately.
The fact, that the contributions of adventure playgrounds
and city farms to sustainable development are still underestimated in the public perhaps
coincides with the fact, that children and their way of life which is inevitably playful
are themselves restricted to the parts of "extras" in the debate on
sustainability. They are often reduced to some anonymous upgrowing or future generations
and their specific (play) needs and rights are hardly ever adequately addressed or, if
their needs are articulated, it is usually done in such a general way that hardly any
definite conclusions can be drawn therefrom as far as urban planning is concerned, which
should adjust to these needs.
School gardens can become mini-farms and a source of
healthy, nutritious food, an opportunity for environmental restoration and a well of
inspiration for children, teachers and parents. School yards are an amazing land resource
but, often neglected.
Also, educators say that outdoor classrooms are a
priority. Students use outdoor classrooms to explore various outdoor themes like the
Stepping outside the classroom to answer a question,
plant seeds, or observe insects on flowers not only adds variety to the curriculum, but
also motivates many students who are less engaged in the usual class routines. Students
who strain to sit still in class may be captivated and stimulated watching a
beetle make its way through a just-turned pile of dirt. When students have the opportunity
to ask their own questions about things that interest them and discover the answers, they
are taking vital steps to becoming lifelong learners.
"For more than ten thousand
years, cultivation of land and the rearing of farm animals was a "natural" part
of civilization. Farming is the root of the urbanisation process, the dynamics of which in
turn has driven farming out of our daily experiences."
Children are also introduced directly to the impacts of our present global food production
and delivery systems. They'll understand depletion of ecologically-productive lands for
the purpose of growing cash crops, pesticide, energy and water use, transportation,
climate change, international trade routes, nutrition, global economics and social justice
issues much better.
School gardens saves urban children from being detached
from the food chain. For example in 2003, the Japan Slow Food Association asked 100,000
kids to paint pictures to decorate the dinner table. Few of them drew real vegetables and
fish. Most drew pictures of the plastic containers that line the shelves of grocery
Now that wouldnt happen if you had a small garden
with vegetables in your school yard.