Gar­den scheme a grow­ing con­cern

Countryman - - COUNTRY LIFE - Dorothy Hen­der­son

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.

Pic­tures: Dorothy Hen­der­son

Stu­dents en­joy some quiet time in the school or­chard.

Thomas Guest, Mitchell Guest, Holly Starce­vich and Klan­cie Al­lan.

Daniela An­to­ni­azzi and Vanessa Car­bone.

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