At the allotment yesterday, my mum commented “this is just what children should be doing, it’s a shame that so many don’t have the chance.” Allotment gardening offers wonderful opportunities for free play, movement, discovery, tinkering, dealing with risk and experiencing the world through all of our senses. Any kind of outdoor play is great for kids, but gardening seems to be particularly rich with potential learning experiences.
Later, I mentioned that I was looking forward to the summer and joked “forget about school work, we’ll just spend all our time up here”. (I should probably mention that at this point we do very little formal learning anyway.) But it got me thinking about whether allotment gardening could be used to teach more traditional academic subjects.
We know that children learn best when they are engaged in hands-on learning with real-life relevance. Opportunities that develop children’s natural talents for enquiry and investigation often result in deeper learning. With that in mind, I began to mindmap some of the educational links and possibilities, concentrating on English, Maths, Science and Geography. Of course, allotment gardening could also be used to cover many other subjects and skills.
I’m not planning to change our mostly child-led, unstructured approach, but I found it quite a useful exercise to better appreciate the learning potential of the time we spend at the allotment. I may well refer back to this mindmap as inspiration to suggest challenges, investigations and activities for the children to do.
Please feel free to click on the image and zoom in to see it better. Below I’ve also listed some useful resources for learning through gardening.
The School Vegetable Patch website has a section about embedding gardening into the wider primary school curriculum.
The GreenHearted Curriculum Map suggests age-related themes and activities for a holistic education based around environmental and sustainability issues.
Torstens matteblogg is written in Swedish but contains lots of interesting ideas for teaching maths and science outside using gardening.
The RHS shop sells some lovely books about gardening with children. We have the Kid’s First Gardening Book which is packed full of fun projects. We also have an old copy of How Nature Works, which contains lots of detailed information and experiments to do.