Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture

Setting up and Running a School Garden - A Manual for Teachers, Parents and Communities (FAO Publication)

For more information, please contact:

Ellen Muehlhoff
Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome

This publication is now on-line at the FAO web site. Read it in its entirety! Setting Up and Running a School Garden

school cover

FAO is pleased to announce publication of Setting up and Running a School Garden - A Manual for Teachers, Parents and Communities. FAO has prepared this manual to assist school teachers, parents and communities who wish to start or improve a school garden with the aim of helping school children to grow in both mind and body.

Children's health is the concern of the whole school and community. The classroom curriculum, extra-curricular activities, the school establishment and the school environment should reinforce each other and work together with the family and community to ensure that children have their basic rights to education and to adequate nutrition.

The School Garden manual works on all these fronts - growing food in the garden, learning about it in the classroom, involving the school meals service, and bringing in the family and community to support the programme. This multi-faceted approach is the best way to successful education for better nutrition and learning. More than that, it may play a part in promoting not only the children's health but also the health of their families and of the natural environment.

The School Garden Manual

The School Garden Manual is based on experiences of setting up and running school gardens all over the world.

Who is it for? FAO has prepared this manual to assist school teachers, parents and communities who wish to start or improve a school garden with the aim of helping school children to grow in both mind and body.

What is the age range?
The intended age range of pupils is 9 to 14 years. This is not to say that children outside this age range cannot be involved; there is always something for very young children to do, and senior students can of course lend a hand with all kinds of tasks, including managing the work.

What does it consist of?
The Manual takes you through all the steps of planning a garden project: deciding what your garden is for, planning how to get help and learning how to prepare the site. There are sections on organizing the work, and motivation has a separate chapter. In the appendices there are horticultural notes and factsheets on nutrition. The Manual does not aim to give detailed horticultural advice for all situations. For this you will need to consult local experts. In each part there are also:

Garden lessons
Parts 3 to 10 of the Manual have outlines of appropriate lessons to do in class. These are aimed at children aged 9-14 years and supplement and support garden activities. They focus not only on knowledge and skills, but also on awareness, life skills, and routine behaviour. Such "garden lessons" have enormous educational value. They bridge theory and practice, reinforcing classroom learning with hands-on experience and observation, and vice versa, and should have a regular place in the classroom timetable, in addition to gardening time.

Aims and principles of school gardens

School gardens can have many different uses and have been seen in many different ways, some practical and some educational. What is important is that they are:

FAO encourages schools to create learning gardens of moderate size, which can be easily managed by students, teachers and parents, but which include a variety of nutritious vegetables and fruits, as well as occasionally some small-scale livestock such as chickens or rabbits. Production methods are kept simple so that they can be easily replicated by students and parents at their homes.

Food Systems are the Unifying Concept

From plot to pot, students learn how to grow, tend, harvest, prepare safely and consume nutritious seasonal produce, in the educational settings of the classroom, the garden, the kitchen, the school cafeteria and the home. The experience promotes the environmental, social and physical well being of the school community and fosters a better understanding of how the natural world sustains itself. Links with home gardens reinforce the concept and open the way for exchange of knowledge and experience between the school and the community.

Such food-based strategies have the merit of sustainability: they create long-term dietary habits and put food choices into the hands of consumers. A strong education component ensures that the effects go beyond the immediate time and place, to children's families and future families.

Nutrition concerns also link the developed and the developing worlds, which share many dietary problems. For example, the need to change perceptions of fruits and vegetables and to learn how they are best grown, prepared and eaten is common to many communities, rich and poor, and may be critical in building community health in both. This makes for meaningful joint efforts and exchanges of experience, ideas and teaching materials.

This Manual is not long enough to deal with everyone's needs and circumstances. We hope, however, that you have enough practical information here to start thinking and planning, a variety of ideas to suit your circumstances, and enough inspiration and good examples to carry you ahead. We also hope that you will adopt some of the watchwords of this Manual.

Garden Watchwords
Use school gardens
for learning
for interest
for good food
for pleasure
Give your garden
good soil
friendly insects
See people as
guides and experts
friends of the garden
willing listeners to children
Help children to
learn, work, observe
eat well
grow up responsible and cooperative
respect the environment
Show the world what your garden can do!

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July 20, 2006

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture