How many teachers does it take to explain a school garden?
Well, in this case, two!
Janet and I began a writing partnership some time ago when I approached her for help with the increasing number of requests for assistance that I was receiving from teachers and parents who were keen to establish a school garden. Janet was experiencing a similar burst of interest and she had a sense that a huge wave of enthusiasm for school gardens was about to swamp us. She proposed that we write a book together that would lead teachers through the process. And so it began.
Two Authors, Two Approaches
We are primary school teachers with over 60 years of teaching experience between us, many of which have been in garden-based learning. We have made the gardens and seen the benefits for the students. We have celebrated with the teachers who have found new energy and inspiration for the teaching task and we have watched as the community looked with pride over the children’s progress. These events have inspired us to continue our connection to schools into our retirement years and to write this book.
While Janet and I are headed in the same direction, the reader will be aware that we take different paths. We believe this is a positive feature of the book. Our individual styles suggest that there are multiple pathways to the process of gardening at school and the reader will find ideas from many models to create the garden and teaching plan to suit their situation.
In Janet’s work you will find a full and detailed plan for a permaculture garden, its establishment, use, maintenance and its links to the curriculum. Janet is a teacher with a deep understanding of the natural world developed through years of application of permaculture principles to land-use, including those in the schoolyard. She has designed whole school environments, school gardens, curricula, units of study and lesson plans. More recently, Janet has trained teachers in the vocational education sector and has helped to write the national Accredited Permaculture Training. She is an inspired educator for whom artist Kay Schiefelbein creates engaging images that support the ideas and concepts in her text.
I have a slightly different focus, though I too have a permaculture background. I start with a look at the history of school gardens and the reasons for their revival. My garden world is about empowering teachers and children to move learning into the outdoors as it is here that children can easily take hold of their own learning and to share with their teachers the associated tasks, ideas, planning and implementation.
I delve into the fanciful and imagine outdoor classrooms that make the schoolyard a more inspiring place for the young - a place where they can play, work and imagine and regain what they are losing every day - their connection to a natural environment. The artist Mary-Anne Cotter has created inspiring images from my imaginings.
Our different approaches come together to reveal the school ground as an important place for the young that can hold more than we traditionally assign to it. Let us be inspired to rethink what we place in the school ground as children today have special needs and the schoolyard is a valuable, largely untapped resource that can be developed to expand and enrich their learning environment.
The outdoor classroom is on your doorstep. Step outside and discover what teachers all over the world are discovering: a children’s garden in the school ground, as simple as the idea appears, is a valuable teaching and learning device for any school. Carolyn