Problems in the school system? A school garden could help.

Problems in the school system?  A school garden could help.

INothing in German schools is currently in the green zone. There is a shortage of teachers everywhere, and those who remain are so stressed and frustrated that they can only endure the misery part-time.

Johanna Kuroczik

Editor in the “Science” department of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

The children, in turn, have “significant learning deficits” as a result of the pandemic, as a recent study once again showed. Playing at home on the smartphone for three years and eating highly processed food has not been good for her level of education.

They threaten to converge with the philistines in Britain, where as early as 2013, a third of primary school children believed cheese was made from plants and bananas from milk in a survey by the National Nutrition Foundation.

How can the German education system be protected from this? Relieve teachers, lure students into reality? The Conference of Ministers of Education has suggested that teachers should work more. This initiative did not generate enthusiasm. So I have another idea: gardening! As a school subject!

When children first dig up the school’s own soil, sow vegetables, nurture and care for the little plants, water and fertilize, rake and pile up, and then harvest the fruits of their labor in the summer, dig up potatoes and prick themselves at the raspberry bush, then it becomes a truth of life strike like a blow: Man is part of nature! At least two lessons a week.

In the school garden, they learn to take responsibility, endure frustration and work in a team. Studies also confirm that gardening students have better mathematical and scientific skills and better language skills.

Brochures from the Federal Information Center for Agriculture provide inspiration for more practical lessons in the school garden. Not only how to twist off pome fruit, but also how to map a garden or determine tree heights with a homemade triangular telescope.

I didn’t take any gardening lessons myself, I had to teach myself to pick cherries and take responsibility, and I’ll only ever be able to estimate the size of a beech tree.

The government is also to blame for this, because apart from information booklets and competitions for the most beautiful school garden, the really big school garden initiative from politics is a long time coming.

A famous advocate of educational gardening is actress Helen Mirren, who helped raise awareness of this issue in a 2013 interview.

That’s not new: In the GDR, “School Garden” was a compulsory subject, with textbooks. But today it is only in Thuringia that garden is still part of the elementary school curriculum.

Nobody knows how many schools nationwide still have a garden. Some states have conducted surveys. In Baden-Württemberg it was about half in 2005, although only a few schools ever answered the questionnaires. Everyone’s just too busy.

Teachers would also benefit: gardening has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety and certainly the risk of burnout.

Unfortunately, a project like this usually gets stuck with a dedicated teacher, who then waters and weeds in their free time and sooner or later curses their own initiative. Beds, shrubs and trees are a lot of work. A friend reports that she mainly swept leaves from the schoolyard in her school gardening class.

But hey, tidying up also has positive effects. In Japan, it is customary for students to clean their classrooms at the end of the school day. That relieves at least the cleaning staff.

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