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


Education and School Gardens

marching boys

by Dr. Gary Pennington
Professor of Education
University of B.C.
From School Garden Guidelines
City Farmer, 1988
(C) Copyright: City Farmer

Educators in British Columbia have a marvelous opportunity to enrich the education and the lives of the youngsters they serve through the use of school gardens. All that is required is the renaissance of the time honoured practice of having young people become conversant with the land and its riches under the tutelage of teachers.

Well developed curriculum materials are available in both Canada and the U.S. to help teachers make school garden programs flourish. Precedent has been established at a few schools in the province, and the University of British Columbia now has a model children's garden to which teachers can turn for example.

Fragmented curricular offerings in schools can become focused and integrated through school gardening programs. The children's drawings and writings which illustrate this booklet are an example of the language arts potential inherent in the school garden. Science, mathematics, art, industrial education, environmental studies, health and home economics curricula can all be enriched through garden related units and activities.

Education philosophers have enunciated a number of simple yet profound principles that converge when we discuss children and gardening:

  1. Learning is most effective when the subject matter is "demystified", that is, when it is immediate and familiar to the learner. (Illich)
  2. Exploration, selection, and refinement are the essential education processes through which learning occurs. (Laban)
  3. Equality of opportunity and cooperation optimize conditions of learning. (Rogers)
  4. Nature, simplicity, time for reflection, and self-reliance are the essence of the learning process. (Thoreau)

Gardening can be a transforming activity for young and old. It can move us from ignorance to understanding and appreciation, from passivity to action, from consumption to production, from silence to dialogue, and perhaps most importantly, from a state of dependence to one of independence with nature and others in our community.

Those of us fortunate to have been involved in the resurgence of urban agriculture in schools have come to know children's gardening as a wondrous phenomenon. In school gardens we see a great potential for learning and for more full, healthy lives for our children.

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Revised June 13, 2008

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture