As I sit down to dinner in the evenings watching my ravenous pre-schoolers push their broccoli and peas around on the plate with their fork, refusing to eat and eventually letting them plop onto the table or even the floor. I wonder if my children really have an appreciation of where food comes from, how much time and care needs to go into producing these well-formed ‘mini-trees’, as we have come to call them, and peas? It’s easy in this day and age to fly to the supermarket, five minutes before dinner needs to be served on the plate, to pick up a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But how much do children understand that fruit, vegetables and all produce (for that matter) don’t just ‘appear’ in the supermarket under their wonderful, over stimulating, lights but actually come from the environment in some form.
Taking inspiration from the staff at Peace Lutheran Primary School, in Gatton Queensland, who have added gardening and sustainability into their Year 5 curriculum, I hope to be able to teach my children just some of the lessons that have been taught to their students.
Thanks to an LLL earthcare grant teachers at Peace have allowed their students to lead a ‘Paddock to Plate’ project that sees them become environmentally respectful and sustainably responsible. Thanks to a guest speaker from the CSIRO and local grazier students were able to hear about the local weather, soil and potential pest conditions and the best management techniques. Student investigation led them to choose vegetables and herbs that are best suited to their climate, such as potatoes, capsicum, dill and strawberries. Students then tended to a series of garden beds by weeding, mulching and composting their plantations.
Practical tips for getting children involved in learning about food from seed to plate are:
- If space allows, give your child a space to grow a fruit or vegetable. If a patch isn’t available, then a pot will work too.
- Keep it simple, why not start with peas, herbs or strawberries.
- Gather seeds from foods you consume like tomato or pumpkin seeds.
- Get children involved, talk to them through the steps i.e. why soil, compost, sunshine and water are important.
- Let them get messy!
- Teach them responsibility and self-confidence by letting them be in charge of the watering, weeding and care.
- Take them to a local community garden to gather other garden and plant ideas.
- Eat the rewards!
Now that their garden beds are in full production, the students at Peace are taking their love of gardening one step further and giving their produce back the local community in the form of donations. The student’s enthusiasm sees them providing Anuha Disabilities Services and Peacehaven Cottages with rosella fruit, to aid them with their fundraising (by making and selling jams and preserves). They are also providing the local hospital with fresh produce which is used in the production of Meals on Wheels meals. The student’s willingness to continue to tend the garden has continued and will continue well after their curriculum on the topic has ended.
By following in the footsteps of the students at Peace I hope that my children will gain some insight to where their foods come from, even if they won’t eat their ‘mini trees’ they can at least grow them, not throw them!