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Growing organic!

School gardens and organic food

Giuditta Vittadini, DiProVe – Faculty of Agriculture – University of Milan

The didactic and pedagogic mean of a school garden
• One of the main challenge today is to build and to feed sustainable communities:
social, cultural and physical environments in which we can satisfy our needs and
our aspirations without reducing the prospects of future generations
• In organic farming every action is considered for its effect on the totality

Æ cycles of the plants and of soil

Æ local territory and traditional farming

• A school garden is the ideal place for teaching the merit of organic farming to
our children: teaches these foundamental facts of life

Æ an ecosystem doesn’t generate waste

Æ matter cycles continually
Æ diversity assures resilience
Æ the sun’s energy drives the ecological cycle
Æ life take over the planet by cooperation, partnership, networking
Teachers and children are taken over an educational experience rich of goals:
• Ecological and environmental education

Æ relationship between natural elements

Æ the ecological concept of food cycle (sense of place)
Æ periodicity of agriculture production
Æ knowledge of some indigenous plants
Æ the practical experience infuses into children respect for earth

• Food education

Æ to eat seasonal vegetables and fruits

Æ the involvement of families

• The pedagogic aspects of gardening are also very important

Æ children experience growth on a daily basis

Æ integration of every school’ s activity with gardening
Æ parallelism between the natural community and the human’s one
School gardens and their contribute to Food Security
• The didactic role of school gardens is also important for FAO
• The major aims of FAO’ s School Garden Programme are:

Æ Educational:
relevance and quality of education for rural and urban children;
production and consumption of micronutrient-rich fruits and green leafy vegetables;
active learning by linking gardens with other subjects;
environmental issues and practical nutrition education.

Æ Economic/Food security:
sustainable production of food is important for household food security;
income-generation opportunities;
food availability and diversity.
Slow Food and its school garden’s projects
Slow Food is a no-profit organization that supports local food production, territorial
origin and high rate quality food.

In 2001 Slow Food USA led the first national project promoting School Garden:
The Edible Schoolyard

In 2006, at the Slow Food Italy National Congress in Sanremo, it was resolved to
create 100 gardens in Italy. Today in Italy over 125 school gardens are part of the
national program “Orto in Condotta”

School gardens follow the three principles of Good, Clean and Fair

Partner of the project are

student, teachers, grandparents,
parents, local services, Slow
Food and local producer. All
togheter are able to establish a
“learning community”
The italian national program is called “Orto in Condotta” and includes a
three-year curriculum and its characteristics are:

Æ First year is focused on vegetable garden and sensory training;

second year is based on alimentary and environmental training;
third year on the food culture and the regional know.
Æ Children must use organic production methods
and choose local product;
Æ OGM are forbidden;
Æ Food production with didactic value is preferred.
The example of the school garden in San Mauro Torinese
• The municipality of San Mauro Torinese was one of the first Italian towns that began
the project “Orto in Condotta”. After four years the results are seven school gardens
allocated in four primary school and one nursery school

• The children with teachers and grandparents realized the “Campo dei Semplici” where
cultivate officinal herbs and aromatic plants and another vegetables garden called
“Campo Coccinelle” where are cultivated marrows, tomatoes, aubergines, peas and
strawberries (the typical fruit of San Mauro Torinese)
The educational point of wiew
• Creation of sense of responsibility

• Cooperation with other children and with


• Children are happier and less aggressive

• Creation of a net with territory: educational school

trip and breeders’ workshop

• Children of San Mauro Torinese cultivated little

gardens in pots with old and disabled person
The didactic point of wiew
• Children recognize different
plants: next every plant is put
a tag with its name and
information about cultivation
• Knowledge of the soil and of
the basis of organic
horticulture is developed:
intercropping, mulching,
• Meaning of recycling and of
separate refuse collection is
• Children learn to eat seasonal
vegetables and fruits
• Children invented the play to recognize plant by

• The school send to the fair village the products of

the school garden
The project “Orto in Condotta” at the primary school A. Scarpa
of Milan

• On February 2009 the project will start in the primary school A.

Scarpa of Milan

• There will be two important goals in the first year:

Æ The school garden has to be projected with children

Æ The importance of composting

Planning with children

• The explanation of the meaning of natural

community and the relationships between
natural elements:
Æ “nature journal”
Æ simple experimental activities:
• investigation of the soil;
• understanding intercropping;
• learning what elements plants need to grow
Æ the school garden planning
The importance of composting

• Explaining to the children the technique to produce


• It will be better to begin with activities that explain to

children the decomposition’s process:

Æ creation of a “decomposition corner”

Æ carrying out experiment with compost to
understand how organic matter changes
• School gardens can contribute to increasing the relevance and
quality of education.

• Gardens can be used for practical work related to biology,

environmental studies, mathematics as well as reading, writing and

• School garden activities can include nutrition education, food

preservation techniques, sustainable natural resource management,
recycling and composting.

• The project “Orto in Condotta” strength the didactic syllabus by

providing alimentary education as well as environmental education.

• Children will acquire basic organic farming knowledge and a

comprehensive regional knowledge.
Thanks for your attention!!