Dustin Bajer, Students at Jasper Place High School tending the school garden and food forest

5 Ways School Gardens Support Learning

A Garden In Every School

Every schoolyard should have a garden. School gardens produce food, connect kids to nature, and support an active lifestyle. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook many pedagogical reasons for school gardens – could it be that they’re good for education?

Since 2010, I have been working with students on various urban agriculture initiatives and have seen first hand how school gardens support learning.

1. School Gardens Are Cross-Curricular

School gardens are inherently cross-curricular. Projects bridge disciplines facilitate engaging, meaningful, and applicable learning opportunities. Here’s a ‘back of a napkin’ list of general outcomes school gardens could cover:

  • Biology Curriculum: Evolution, ecology, animal behaviour, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, weather, climate, nutrient cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus), botany, and genetics.
  • Chemistry Curriculum: Organic chemistry, soil nutrient levels, solubility, pH, and medicine.
  • Physics Curriculum: Thermodynamics, reflection and refraction (site design), and the electromagnetic spectrum (photosynthesis).

  • English Curriculum: The use of food, nature, and gardening as symbols and metaphors within literature.
  • Mathematics Curriculum: Fractal patterns in nature, tessellation’s, geometry, scale diagrams (design).
  • Social Studies Curriculum: Food security, globalisation, human rights, environmental stewardship, ethnobotany.
  • Culinary Arts or Foods Curriculum: Access to produce, composting, farm to plate outcomes.
  • Design Studies Curriculum: Site design and drafting.
  • Business Studies Curriculum: Costing, break even analysis, distribution, and marketing.
  • Communications Technology Curriculum: Documenting the garden via photography, video editing and production.
  • Career And Technology Studies (CTS) Curriculum: Construction of garden infrastructure; beds, benches, sheds, trellis, and sculpture.

2. School Gardens Provide Authentic Learning Opportunities

Dustin Bajer, Students at Jasper Place High School tending the school garden and food forest
Dustin Bajer, Students at Jasper Place High School tending the school garden and food forest

What’s more authentic than growing your food? Authentic learning allows students to perform tasks that represent skills they’ll use outside of school. An authentic learning opportunity is that happens while creating something – not through worksheets and powerpoints.

3. School Gardens Are An Opportunity For Differentiated Instruction 

From design to harvest, the act of planning, installing, maintaining, and harvesting a garden requires a lot of different skills. Thus, gardening is aa great opportunity for differentiated instruction as there’s something for every student at every skill level.

Let’s take a look at Bloom’s taxonomy as it related to school gardening.

School Gardens and Blooms Taxonomy
School Gardens and Blooms Taxonomy

4. School Gardens Tap Into Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences points out that there is more than one way to be “smart”. School gardens provide opportunities for students to express and grow in a multitude of ways.

Visual/Spacial Intelligence

  • Site design, layout, and an understanding of how it will change over time.
  • How should the garden look ascetically?
  • How will people interact with the garden? How will they move through it?
  • Does it meet the needs of the school community?
  • How will the elements flow through the site? The wind, water, the sun, compost, people, etc

Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence

  • Presentations to fellow students, teachers, and the community.
  • How will others hear about the garden? What would you like them to know?
  • How will the project be documented and shared?

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

  • Site design and layout. Material calculations, costing, and procurement.
  • How can we most effectively use the site? How can we maximise the growing space?
  • What materials will we need, where can we find them, and how much will they cost?
  • In what steps does the garden need to be constructed?

Bodily/Kinaesthetic Intelligence

  • Site construction, planting, and maintenance.
  • What is an efficient way of implementing the design?
  • Planting, maintenance, harvesting, processing

Interpersonal Intelligence

  • Working closely and coordinating with others. Planning and implementing activities.
  • Who is responsible for the garden? How are tasks divided up?
  • How will people interact in and with the site?
  • How can participation? Can other students, classes, teachers, schools, etc get involved?

Intrapersonal Intelligence

  • Self-reflection and analysis of site design at the beginning, middle, and end of a project.
  • What about the design is working? What’s not? What modifications can be made?

Naturalistic Intelligence

  • Plant and animal care. Site design and layout to ensure the needs of each species is met.
  • Which species should be included within the design and why?
  • What does each species need? Where should it be located within the design to ensure that it survives?
  • How will these species change over time and how will it affect the garden?

Musical/Artistic Intelligence

  • How can we ensure that the design and site is inviting?
  • Is it possible to design the site’s soundscape?

5. A Garden Is A Metaphor For Community

Gardens are webs of interacting parts and can’t exist in isolation. Gardens are connections to time, place, and the natural world. They’re a reminder that we reap what we sow and that we’re better off together than on our own.


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