Garden scheme a growing concern
At Salmon Gums the primary school’s garden has taken on a culinary flavour, with edible plants now an integral part of the school’s educational program.
Raised garden beds are bedecked with ripening black Russian tomatoes, cheerful marigolds and snapdragons, while corn, capsicums, cucumbers and squash signal summer’s arrival.
There are gooseberries, strawberries and rhubarb to sweeten the palate, and parsley and mint to add flavour.
Rocket, lettuce, silverbeet, spinach and cabbages provide greens for the plate, and there are trees in the orchard, laden with a variety fruits including oranges, mandarins and pears.
The presence of food plants in the school ground is not new, with pots of edibles providing tasty treats for students in the past.
But now the role of food producing plants has been enshrined within the school’s curriculum due to its participation in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Scheme.
Students at school, located about 106km north of Esperance in the Mallee country, are not alone in their participation in the scheme with more than 150 schools involved in WA.
Not too far away, students in the primary school at Scaddan are also in a learning environment which is enriched by the SAKGS’s presence.
With 32 students, the Salmon Gums Primary School may be regarded as small but it is well resourced and supported by a strong support network of students, parents, staff and community members.
The school is always on the lookout for its students to experience activities that will counteract any limits due to the school’s geographical location.
Teacher Ruth Allan said the garden provided the students with a chance to engage in hands-on activities that fulfilled a variety of learning outcomes, including those related to science and mathematics.
The SAKGS involves learning how to prepare meals from the food produced in the kitchen garden, and this year spinach and bacon muffins, pizzas, crunchy salads and coleslaw are among the dishes prepared using ingredients from the student’s own garden.
“They use the produce that they collect, making fruit trays from the fruit, for example,” Ms Allan said.
As they learn the art of gardening, the students have also had to deal with some issues affecting production, just as many of their parents deal with similar issues on the broadacre properties around the school they have had to deal with weeds, and insects like slaters and caterpillars keen to eat their produce.
The SAKG scheme states that its purpose is to introduce pleasurable food education to children during their learning years, in order to form positive food habits for life.
As the students at Salmon Gums Primary School scramble around under their orange tree searching for fallen fruit, they may be unaware of the academic benefits of time spent in the garden but they are quick to relay their enjoyment of the program.
According to them, the food they pick and eat in the garden, such as the strawberries, tastes much better than the food they buy.
They say that they love the time spent out of the classroom and away from their books.
The SAKG scheme believes that “pleasurable food education delivers observable social benefits to all children, including those with special needs” and that it “encourages critical thinking, teamwork, an understanding of cause and effect, and increased levels of observation”.
As these young gardeners learn about the difficulties associated with cabbage moths that flock to their brassicas and the impact of eating tomatoes too early, they are learning skills that may stand them in good stead later in their lives.
Students enjoy some quiet time in the school orchard.
Thomas Guest, Mitchell Guest, Holly Starcevich and Klancie Allan.
Daniela Antoniazzi and Vanessa Carbone.