TOPIC 3: Communication and education activities for schools

TOPIC 3: Communication and education activities for schools

All schools, whatever their size or location, can benefit from using the natural world as a school resource. By creating a space for culture within the school or the community, the resulting activities can be hugely beneficial:

  • Young people have the opportunity to learn in new, more relevant, practical and exciting ways.
  • Teachers can broaden and deepen their teaching skills and knowledge, while working with more motivated pupils.
  • Schools can use these new resources and approaches to improve outcomes.
  • School gardens can become a resource for widening provision, involving the community and informing it about food production, sustainability issues and the environment.

Various examples of activities, whether they are purely manual in the garden or using new technologies such as online applications, can be identified or developed for school in community gardens. These gardens offer a real pedagogical potential that can be used either to work on contents from the class, or to develop their soft skills, their self-confidence, their commitment to the community.

Community gardens serve as outdoor classrooms, integrating various subjects and promoting real-world connections. Students develop environmental awareness, learning sustainable practices about climate change. Collaboration in garden activities enhances teamwork and problem-solving skills. Community gardens also facilitate community engagement and partnerships, strengthening relationships and promoting social cohesion. Overall, integrating activities in community gardens creates dynamic and engaging learning environments, nurturing practical skills, environmental consciousness, interdisciplinary understanding, and community engagement.

Within this chapter, we will propose some examples of activities or approaches that proved to be efficient, such as:

1) Seed bombs : Seed bombs are a fun and easy way to disperse seeds in a garden or other outdoor areas. They are small balls made of clay, soil, and seeds, which can be thrown or placed in specific areas to promote plant growth. To do it, here is a short guide:

  1. Prepare clay: Break clay into small pieces and gradually add water, kneading until moldable. Avoid excessive moisture.
  2. Add soil and seeds: Mix soil into clay thoroughly. Add seeds and ensure even distribution.
  3. Form seed bombs: Take a small portion of the mixture, roll into compact balls. Repeat for desired quantity.
  4. Dry seed bombs: Place on a baking tray or newspaper in a cool, dry area for at least 24 hours.
  5. Store or use: Once dry, store seed bombs in a container until ready to distribute or plant.
  6. Planting: Toss or place seed bombs in desired locations with suitable soil. Water regularly and provide care as seeds germinate and grow. Select native, non-invasive plant species. Seed bombs enhance beauty, biodiversity, and promote sustainable gardening.
Source: Floris Looijesteijn (Creative Commons)

2) Online application: PlantNet. PlantNet is a mobile app that enables users to identify and learn about plants. It has a vast database of 20,000+ species, allowing users to upload plant photos for instant identification. Utilizing advanced image recognition tech and a collaborative platform, experts and users contribute to plant identification. Detailed information on plant characteristics, habitat, and uses is available for exploration. PlantNet is an invaluable tool for nature enthusiasts, gardeners, and students, fostering discovery and understanding of diverse plant life.

3) Ponds: They don’t suit for every school garden but they have numerous educational advantages. They facilitate interactive learning by enabling students to investigate aquatic ecosystems, observe diverse plant and animal species, and grasp the significance of water conservation. Ponds stimulate scientific inquiry, enabling students to explore water quality, biodiversity, and ecological relationships. They cultivate environmental consciousness and a sense of stewardship towards natural resources. Ponds also provide interdisciplinary learning opportunities, integrating subjects like biology, ecology, chemistry, and mathematics. Through pond engagement, students enhance critical thinking, observational abilities, and gain a profound appreciation for the natural world, fostering a deeper comprehension of ecological systems.

4) Vegetable Gardens: They offer several pedagogical benefits for education. They provide a hands-on experience where children can actively participate in growing and harvesting herbs, vegetables, fruits, trees, and flowers. Involving children in the preparation of meals using ingredients from the garden promotes healthy eating habits and cultivates culinary skills. Edible flowers, such as daylilies and nasturtiums, add a unique touch and expand their knowledge of diverse edible plants. Kitchen gardens foster an understanding of plant life cycles, environmental sustainability, and the importance of organic gardening practices. They also promote teamwork, responsibility, and creativity, while connecting children to nature and fostering a sense of pride and accomplishment.

5) Sensory gardens: They offer significant pedagogical benefits for education. Specifically designed to engage the senses, these gardens provide a rich sensory experience for students. Textured paths, water features, fragrant leaves and flowers, rustling grasses, and bird sounds enhance sensory stimulation. Students can explore different textures, smells, and sounds, developing sensory awareness and appreciation for nature. Sensory gardens promote mindfulness, relaxation, and emotional well-being. They foster cognitive development by stimulating observation, comparison, and descriptive skills. These gardens also encourage creativity and imagination, as students connect sensory experiences with their surroundings. Overall, sensory gardens provide a unique and immersive learning environment that enhances sensory perception, cognitive abilities, and emotional engagement.

All these activities have a double strength as they can bring up the awareness of climate change by confronting the issues that are met from the perspective of biodiversity, such as the study of soil, furthermore the use of digital technologies can enlighten the students of the carbon footprint in the process of manufacturing (of what here – the tools?), the actual use and even the recycling process of the tools that they would be using.

Sources and resources

Educational gardens : Visited on 21/07/2023 : Visited on 21/07/2023…/school-gardens-changing-lives-and-communities : Visited on 21/07/2023…/scotlandschoolscasestudies.pdf : Visited on 21/07/2023 : Visited on 21/07/2023