School kitchen gardens are proving a huge success in primary schools, with both students and parents engaged in learning outside the classroom.
The garden projects have been inspired by similar kitchen garden programs and reinforced by research that shows the positive effect of hands on activities such as gardening and cooking.
Lapstone Primary School
Lapstone Public School's living classroom
Principal Dianne Knight, from Lapstone Primary School, sees first hand the benefits of her school's kitchen garden project. 'Every term we harvest and cook from the school's kitchen garden. The parents come to us saying, "I can't believe my child ate spinach"'.
She also believes that gardens are an excellent way to engage parents in the school community. 'Anyone can be involved. I've had fathers tell me after a working bee they've never enjoyed a day at school before and ask how they can do it more regularly. It's also a way for parents to network'.
Gwyneville Primary School
At Wollongong's Gwyneville Primary School, the efforts of parents like Alex Sheperd show just how much is possible in three years. 'I noticed there was no environmental stuff going on, so I offered to do a whole school design and set up an environment committee'.
Gwyneville Primary's project, which groups children into 'green teams', won the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens' Association Award along with various other accolades. However, for Alex, the students are the real winners. 'It makes a profound difference. The majority of them are hearing about school kitchen gardens for the first time. They love it'.
Warrawong Community of Schools
As school gardens are established, the benefits quickly snowball. In the Warrawong Community of Schools, the Living Classroom project is so popular that it is now run in six schools as part of a K-12 pathway, with students teaching each other. 'It is a classroom in the garden that integrates organic food and native gardens and connects elements like water harvesting, waste management and animal systems', says Aaron Sorenson, co-founder of the Living Classroom project.
The benefits of these projects, says Aaron, are numerous. 'Living classrooms build self-esteem, encourage discussions about food and healthy lifestyles and lead into the schools' mentoring program. It has been incredibly successful.'