School gardens matter

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Put together kids, soil, and seeds, and you have a magical combination. Besides bringing the reality of real food, tending a school garden expands the classroom. How much more fun is it to calculate angles or the volume of soil needed when there's a direct correlation to the project? These are the types of lessons children remember. A student-tended garden gives them something to look forward to every time they work with it, as well as the satisfaction of a homegrown harvest.

Potatoes_kids_school_garden1_pixIt is such a shame, however, that Heath & Safety regulations, or at least the interpretation of them, have gone so mad that manufacturers of garden tools for children and especially for schools, and primary schools (elementary schools) at that, have to put stickers on their tools that they should not be used (no, not just not without supervision, but not at all) by children under ten. How are young children are to learn how to garden and to grow food if they are not permitted to use the appropriate tool?

Governments talk a lot about school gardens and the needs of children to learn to grow food in order for them, the children that is, to understand what real food is and where it comes from; as far as vegetables are concerned namely the soil, but when it comes down to it they block this from happening any which way they can.

Children today, but not only children, have little to no idea that a carrot comes out of the ground or a potato, and that leaf vegetables also are grown in soil and that that soil has to be fertile, has to be tilled, and the plants have to be protected from predators and that they need feeding and watering.

Let's not even talk about the origin of the hamburger that they eat or the sausage. They are totally unable to link that to a cow or a pig. As far as most of them are concerned they are made in a factory and that's it.

Then again, as far as McDonald's hamburgers and whatever else are concerned the base material has about as much to do with a cow as does cotton with polyester, if we want to set a crass example. But that is hardly the point.

Children need to learn how to grow food in order for them to understand where the food, real food, that they are meant to eat for good health, comes from and how it comes about. This can only happen if they are allowed to get their hands dirty and work the soil, literally, and that with the right tools.

Our modern children in the last couple of decades have become separated from real life and from the soil, even those who live in the countryside that the majority have no idea as to the growing of plants of any kind, whether flowers, trees or and especially food and they are totally stunned that real food has dirt on it, unlike the washed stuff they see in a supermarket.

Without children being permitted, however, at school and elsewhere, to get involved in gardening, directly and physically, including the use of the, as said, appropriate real tools. Yes, secateurs are sharp and can cut but if they are not sharp they cutting is more dangerous than if they are and the same is true for a knife. And yes, a garden spade and a garden fork can be misused as a weapon but that is no reason why children should not learn how to use them.

© 2013