The school garden is a didactic teaching aid, which in recent years has again gained an important place in Slovene primary and secondary schools, as well as in kindergartens. This is very encouraging, especially because today still a lot of children spend too much time in virtual worlds and less and less in nature. They have no genuine contact with nature and don’t learn about nature in the nature. By using active learning methods in teaching in nature children could learn about the laws of nature, observe the seasons changing, learn how to survive in nature and produce good quality healthy food. Knowledge about organic production is needed for survival. We owe it to future generations. There is an increasing competition in schools and less cooperation, and the garden is one of the few environments where children can learn interaction and cooperation.
The garden is an important living space that connects man with nature from the very beginning of his existence. The garden gives us food, teaches us about life. It is an oasis of peace and rest, a corner for relaxation, aesthetics, reflection and conversation. It is an inspiration for artists and philosophers. The garden has also an important place in mythology (the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the paradise garden is a metaphor of life, order, beauty ...).
The indigenous population worshiped animals and plants, which were part of their world and lived in harmony. In prehistoric Europe, until the end of Neolithic times (around 3.000 BC), people had a religious relationship with nature within the cult of the Great Mother. Recognizing the sanctity of Earth as a mother is a few thousand years old belief. Even the Celtic and Slavic ancestors represented nature as a sanctuary, their gods lived in trees, water, stones, mountains ... Later, during the period of Judeo-Christian and Greek-Roman values, man’s relation towards nature began to crumble. After the industrial and technological revolution, man began to adapt plants and animals more and more. We are currently in a period where this balance is already ruined and nature started to show its power in the form of large extreme weather phenomena that we are experiencing in recent years. We are faced with new challenges.
A - HISTORY OF SCHOOL GARDENS
Over time, the contents and purpose of school gardens have changed. As a learning aid it was created in the 19th century, although the idea itself is even older. The significance of school gardens was already mentioned by classics of pedagogy. Jan Amos Komensky, the founder of modern pedagogy, wrote in the 17th century about gardens that were supposed to be near schools, where children would relax when looking at trees, flowers and vegetables, and learn to appreciate nature. The advocate of observation at the lesson was also the French enlightener Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who incorporated the principle of clarity into the entire observation of life and nature. The pupil was supposed to get acquainted with working life and was educated at work. By working in the garden as an educational agent, he advocated the idea of school gardens. The educational plan of the Swiss pedagogue Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) was based on the principle that children should be involved in work and in summer they should accustom to the lesson of agriculture. In his work entitled “Leonard and Gertrude”, he described a school garden on which each pupil had three beds. The pupils studied for a while and later they worked. They visited exemplary estates and talked to farmers.
Friedrich Fröbl (1782-1852), a German pedagogue and founder of the kindergarten, also advocated working education. In children he tried to develop creativity and help them to get to know the world. They should work, nurture, and learn about plants and animals in the garden. In order to love nature, they would also cultivate an aesthetic and social sense.
In Europe, school gardens started to emerge from the middle of the 19th century. They were known in Switzerland (the first garden was mentioned in 1870), Belgium (they were prescribed in 1873), England, Sweden, Austria and also in the Netherlands. In France, there were 28.000 school gardens in 1880. In Germany, the first school gardens were mentioned at the beginning of 1870, and school gardens are also reported from the USA, where they were introduced into public schools in the mid-1890s.
Slovenian schools have a rich tradition of school gardens. In the second half of the 19th century almost every school had its own school garden, its classroom in nature. Until 1869 school gardens were not mandatory. From individual articles we can understand that they were created mainly due to the commitment of individual teachers. First school gardens were tree nurseries, since state authorities and agricultural companies were mainly promoting fruit farming. People received tree saplings from school tree nurseries. At this point we can only speak of the economic meaning of school gardens. One of the first records of school gardens in Slovenia dates back to 1842, when Anton Martin Slomšek (1800-1862), the initiator of beginner and repetitive Sunday schools, wrote a chapter on fruit growing in his book "Blaže and Nežica in Sunday School". The chapter concludes with the words: “Every father shall plant a tree for his child. The tree shall grow with the child and bear fruits. We will be long gone, but the tree will still bear fruits and remind the child of us.” Slomšek's tree school for Sunday school students was an attempt of a school garden that was established later.
In 1851, teachers were encouraged with a circular to teach fruit farming. Two years earlier, the Carniolan agricultural society began to reward teachers who fostered fruit farming. Fruit farming was taught at rural public schools, most of which had their own tree nursery.
After 1850, individual teachers began to write for various Slovenian professional and pedagogical magazines about their experiences in fruit growing, vegetable farming, sericulture and beekeeping. They started to report to school supervisors and discuss school gardens at the teacher assemblies.
The oldest school garden in Slovenia was established in 1810 as a school garden for the needs of natural science studies at the Central Schools in the time of Illyrian Provinces. Today it functions as a Botanical Garden of the University of Ljubljana and is considered to be the oldest continuously functioning botanical garden in Central Europe.
In May 1869, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including the Slovene Lands, the 3rd State Folk Education Law was introduced. With this law school became obligatory for all children from 6 to 14 years of age, which means an eight-year schooling obligation. Among other things, the law laid the groundwork for school gardens. The following provisions were important: Article 27 of the law stipulated that every teacher should be given a suitable piece of land "for agricultural work"; It was required that teachers who took care of such a garden were educated. Article 29 obliged male colleges of education to "teach about farming with special regard to the ground conditions". In Article 63 we read: "In every school, a gym must be built, in rural communities, if possible, a garden for a teacher and some land for agricultural experiments" should be given. This land was meant to be used as a school garden. It should cover at least three and no more than sixteen are.
In the curricula for public schools dating back to 1869, a new educational subject is found – natural history, which was taught in the 5th class two hours a week. The learning objective of natural history in elementary school was to induce pupils to feel and love nature and to share knowledge about the most important animals, plants and rocks and their practical application and importance in everyday life. Practical classes on vegetable, fruit growing, floriculture and beekeeping should take place at the school garden where they learned about individual plants and trees. Teachers taught pupils how to cultivate a vegetable, flower and herbal garden, how to care for fruit trees (many schools had tree nurseries) and vines, how important bees are in the garden ... in some places they even cultivated silkworms. Sometimes what they produced was used in school kitchen. Teachers were aware of the educational importance of the school garden for pupils and wrote quite a few books and articles on this topic.
In 1870, the Austrian pedagogue Erasmus Schwab wrote the first manual entitled "The school garden. Being a practical contribution to the subject of education", which should help schools and teachers in the introduction and maintenance of school gardens. He pointed out that gardens also have a general educational value: "Nature is our home, being a stranger in it brings us loss and shame." That's why he supported that every school should have its own garden. He mentioned the friendly attitude of the youth to the garden and the importance for the correct personal development of a child. In nature the child will become sensitive to the organization and needs of the community. The school garden must be that example that the child unconsciously accepts and as an adult, regulates his environment according to this image.
In the beginning the task of the school garden was broadly designed: practical knowledge should rely on experience - empirical thinking, and moreover, logically, with the refinement of reason. The second main function was educational. The school garden should include: examples of domestic deciduous and coniferous trees, fruit trees, agricultural experimental beds, a vegetable garden with hotbed, compost, individual technical and economically important plants, decorative flowers, perennials and roses, apiary, water / fountain, a gym in the middle of the greenery.
In one year, the school garden was formed in theory and organizational terms: it was defined by the law and enabled with a new curriculum, insured and encouraged with instructions for school inspectors, and theoretically supported by the Schwab brochure and with the ideal plans of school gardens.
And how did the implementation of school gardens take place in practice?
Initially, school gardens were only tree nurseries, and gradually another vegetation was added to the fruit tree, where they also took into account the rotation of crops. There was a need for a drawn plan of the school garden. One of the first local school garden plans was published in 1880 in the “Traveler” ("Popotnik"). It was created by Jakob Lopan. The garden was based on a tree nursery, which should occupy more than half of the garden, while the rest of the area was planted with legumes, vines, agricultural and technical plants, poisonous herbs and flowers. He emphasized that the plan should serve as the basis for individual school gardens.
In 1888, the first comprehensive book in the field of school gardens was written by the agricultural expert and teacher Gustav Pirc, entitled “Horticulture with special regard for the treatment and supply of school gardens”. He draws attention to different purposes of school gardens in rural areas and in the city: "The garden of the city school is a learning resource for natural science, while the school garden in rural areas is a teaching tool for intelligent agriculture, which is taught by the teacher on the basis of natural science.” At that time, the school garden was not only used to help pupils in school but also for the benefit of the wider population. All of this was emphasized mainly because the bad situation of farmers. The size of gardens was adapted to the location, options and needs. Small gardens were measured to five, medium to large, five to eight, and large, over eight are.
Teachers emphasized the different features of the school garden. In particular, the general benefit of villagers by obtaining better seeds and fruit from the garden, and teaching pupils about agriculture and horticulture, on fruit and wine production. Soon the school garden was connected with the mental and physical education of pupils. With activities in the garden, they should raise their love for the neighbour and strengthen the whole body. The work satisfaction should be an indispensable value in the ethical sense - children should work with pleasure and thus fullfill duties they have at school but also outside the school, and thus strive to promote the general well-being. For this, the teacher's joy to the garden was also needed.
Franc Praprotnik (1849-1933) taught at four schools, and at every school he organised a school garden and planted trees. His first concern was to establish a tree nursery. The first trees were planted in the head teacher’s garden and he used them for the practical learning of children. The former pupil of Praprotnik, head teacher Witzmann in Ribnica na Pohorju, wrote: "The tree nursery was full of signs with sayings and proverbs about fruit farming. All these signs were prepared by Praprotnik himself. He enjoyed walks in the garden and always had something to do. He motivated his students so that everyone had to plant and graft one tree. He prepared a sign with the child’s name and tied it to the tree. So everyone knew which tree was his." After finishing school each student got one sapling. Young trees as a reward for learning success at school are an exemplary example of successful pedagogy. During his service he established eleven nurseries and raised over 50.000 trees in them. For his noble pedagogical work, he received several awards and diplomas.
In Krško, the headmaster of the bourgeois school Ivan Lapajne (1849-1931) was credited for a beautifully decorated school garden. In the 6th annual report of the Boys' Bourgeois School of 1886/87, his article entitled "Our School Garden" was published together with the plan of the garden. The land for the garden and the fence was purchased by the school benefactor Martin Hočevar. The garden was arranged after Max Machaneck’s plan.
During World War I, many gardens were destroyed, and their role changed. School gardens were needed for producing food. A more important role was given to female gardening teachers, which we can hardly find in school gardens until this time (except for nuns). The emphasis was on growing vegetable which was intended for nutrition. The military time has shown that the knowledge acquired by pupils in the garden is not only important for the peasant but also for the urban population.
After 1918 there was a thorough renovation of school gardens, both in organizational and pedagogical terms. Fruit farming was still dominant. In 1921, the agricultural and natural science lesson was introduced, which began in the school year 1921/22 in all public schools in Slovenia. The lesson was held two hours a week in the upper grades of the public school for boys. Practical exercises were mainly performed at the school garden: they observed the upper and lower layers of the soil, prepared the compost, familiarized with weeds and tried to suppress it, prepared potatoes for planting, observed individual fruit trees, dug caves and planted trees, fertilized fruit trees, crushed aphids, learned to saw branches, grafted trees, practiced in hunting voles and finally picked up crops.
Several changes were made in the organizational sense. Decrees prescribed the obligation of well-organized and well-cultivated school gardens. They were supervised by school supervisors. Later this function was transferred to district rapporteurs and then to school managers. For the control of the gardens, special printed materials were prescribed: "Reports on the condition and supply of school garden and land" and "Main Reports", with which they were thoroughly acquainted with the course of work at the school gardens in individual schools and their arrangement.
The Law of National Schools from 1929 demanded a compulsory arrangement of a school garden for rural schools, and for city schools according to their capabilities. The law emphasized the importance of the school garden for learning purposes, especially for the natural science lesson, for practical exercises in agriculture, as well as for practical home economics lesson for girls.
In the 1930s, the reform efforts of advanced teachers, which emerged as a reaction to the passive, receptive role of the pupil in the old traditional school of learning began to enforce. The work school asserted the spiritual and physical work of pupils in all lessons and sought to achieve a versatile activity and the child’s development. The principle of this new school was to acquire practical knowledge based on observation, experience and work. This type of school connected the lesson with the life of the environment. All of this was introduced by the most advanced gardener teachers while working at the school garden. The school garden was educating in terms of perseverance, patience, tenderness and love for nature.
After 1945, the number of gardens gradually declined. In some cases they were replaced with children’s playgrounds, but their surfaces were also reduced due to the expansion of parking spaces. These changes in the use of school greens reflected wider social changes and also changes in individual’s thought patterns. During this time, the school garden was developing in an optional or voluntary form. After 1953 the school garden evolved as part of the school curricular activities in the form of study circles, and also as productive pupil’s work in the form of pioneer school cooperatives. The pioneer cooperative was a special form of pupils' activity, which carried out its tasks in the form of productive work on a cooperative basis, combining productive and socially useful work in various fields: food production (agriculture, viticulture, horticulture, fruit growing, plantations), horticulture and nature protection (floriculture, herbalism, afforestation, green guards), practical work in workshops.
In 1982, according to the collected data, 36 pioneer cooperatives in elementary schools operated in Slovenia. The fields of activity were extremely diverse therefore it is impossible to speak of a single concept of a pioneering cooperative.
After the year 2000, a number of movements and organizations began highlighting the importance of locally grown food and education for sustainable development, which is being implemented in schools. Many examples of good practice have emerged. Their advantage is, among others, professionalism, supported by didactic principles, and the disadvantage is that school gardens are not included in the curriculum, and this very important knowledge is not shared by all students. We highlight two projects: “Šolska vrtilnica” or School Garden/Classroom within “Ekošola” or Eco-School and »Šolski ekovrt« or School Eco Garden by the Institute for Sustainable Development and also the cooperation with a kindergarten and a secondary school.
The international program Ekošola (Eco-School) is the largest international network of children and educators and teachers, which promotes the systematic implementation of environmental content. All institutions in the educational process can be included in the Eco-School program: kindergartens, primary schools, the Centre for school and extra-curricular activities, secondary schools, dormitories and faculties. The program promotes networking and collaboration with individuals, organizations outside the institution, which can help to maximize the impact of youth activities and their mentors in the local environment and wider. Planning and implementation of activities takes place in the framework of thematic sections - waste, water, energy, health and well-being, the school environment, biodiversity, the preservation of our world and sustainable mobility. Each individual institution decides on specific areas according to how important or what is the specific topic for their local environment. The program »Šolski ekovrt« or School Eco Garden School offers professional and information support to all schools, kindergartens, dormitories, etc. in Slovenia, who establish or nurture their school eco-garden. The Institute for Sustainable Development, which coordinates the program, provides its members with comprehensive professional support. All institutions included in the "Network of School Eco-Gardens" can: participate in training, workshops and events of the project, use teaching materials and material for mentors on the web portal SEG. They also have the opportunities for exchanging experiences with other institutions throughout Slovenia.
In order to see ahead, we need to look back; it is important to be familiar with the knowledge of our ancestors, who have been pioneers in the field of school gardens, and combine their knowledge with the current. At the same time, however, we need to wonder what our actions mean for the future, as we have through our conduct towards humans and nature itself disrupted the balance. What kind of role models are we for our youngest, what kind of messages are we sending? One of the answers could be: school garden in every school, in every kindergarten! If in direct contact with the Earth, plants and animals it would be easier to perceive that everything in nature is alive. That every human, animal, plant, tree, river, sea, stone, mountain, wind... has an important role in the entanglement of life. That we are all connected. And that we have to protect and respect our only home.
The school garden represents one of the basic and indispensable teaching aid in all elementary schools, kindergartens and secondary schools. In the past, it was mainly connected with the lesson of biology, as well as other natural science subjects and the lesson of agriculture. The school garden as a classroom in the nature represents in recent times a connecting element in the teaching of various subjects. With it, we can enrich our learning in every subject, including foreign language lessons, mathematics, physics or other subjects. Pupils identify in the garden the relationship between cause and effect and learn basic principles in nature. They monitor the growth and development of plants at certain stages, and develop the ability to observe in nature. Care for the plants becomes a valuable learning experience for children. Students follow the course and results of their practical work. Working in a school garden also means quality leisure time. Working in groups develops mutual assistance and cooperation. It can also mean gaining self-esteem after a good job. Learning in the garden can mean a pleasant change in a regular lesson. The garden develops children at the emotional (love for the nature), aesthetic (garden management), social (work in groups, mutual assistance and cooperation) and health (outdoor work in nature, physical activity, organic food) level.
C - EXHIBITION »Whoever planted a garden, soweth love!«
At the Slovenian School Museum from 20th November 2014 to 1st October 2016
A few seasons have changed between the idea and the realization of the exhibition. We planted the seeds for the exhibition in 2012 together with dr. Leopoldina Plut Pregelj, who says that a school that has no real contact with actual life cannot be successful.
At the museum’s entrance a fairy, the guardian of the vegetable world, and along the corridor, a series of subtle illustrations of individual herbs under the joint title “Plant narratives” welcomed visitors. This was the work of Simona Čudovan, an academic painter and designer. The exhibition presented the historical development of school gardens in Slovenia - with old photos of school gardens in individual schools throughout Slovenia at different times, with plans of school gardens, sections from books and newspapers, documents, old school illustrations from the end of the 19th century the exhibition presented the contents of lessons, the work in the school garden and the advantages of practical work in the garden from an educational perspective.
The second part of the exhibition presented the present. We invited kindergartens, primary and secondary schools from all over Slovenia to send us their materials on work in their school gardens, especially illustrations.
The centre stage of the exhibition, which was alive and has changed according to seasons, was the connection between the past and the present. Various seeds were presented in glass jars. Next to them were various dried herbs produced by students from the School Centre for Postal Service, Economics and Telecommunications in Ljubljana. Also a way to graft the apple tree was presented. In display cases were individual pieces of old tools that were used in gardening, as well as various documents and books.
Various old species of apples were contributed by the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia. Apples were accompanied by stores for the winter, which were prepared in various elementary schools. Spices and herbs are an important part of the school garden, so pots with different herbs were placed on the window shelves. In the spring, the central part of the exhibition changed. We began to sow different vegetables and herbs and kept them until May, when we placed them on the museum balcony. Over the summer, we have dried herbs and now we can drink delicious museum herbal tea made of mint, balm, chamomile, thyme...
On 11th October 2016, the exhibition moved to the Municipal Museum of Krško, where it will stay until October 2017. On the Earth Day, 22 April 2019, we will open the exhibition at the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica.
D - PUBLISHING ACTIVITY: CATALOGUE, THEMATIC NUMBER OF SCHOOL CHRONICLE, CALENDAR 2016, DIDACTIC CARDS - MEMORY PLANT NARRATIVES
Our publishing activity includes:
The theme of the calendar was the content of the exhibition Nature’s Classroom: the school garden yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The calendar contains a lot of interesting and useful facts and information, especially for gardeners, nature lovers and schools: photos of school gardens from the past, proverbs about the garden and nature, learning illustrations about natural science, Marija Thun’s seed sowing calendar, old Slovenian names of months, lunar phases, sunrises and sunsets, beginnings of the seasons, important days, zodiac signs, holidays, etc. And it happened for the first time that the whole calendar was sold out already in 2015.
It was entirely dedicated to the exploration of the school garden. We invited authors from various fields, social sciences and natural sciences, who encounter this topic in their work and wrote about school gardens from different perspectives. We explored the history as the Slovenian schools have a rich tradition of school gardens, as well as the present, as we have recently seen an increased interest in school gardens. We have received from 20 different authors interesting contributions, who talk about the development of school gardens also beyond our borders.
The game memory consists of 58 cards (29 pairs), which is not a classic memory, since we are not looking for two identical pictures. On one card is an illustration of a particular plant, on another the photograph with a story about this same plant. The game combines knowledge, memory and entertainment, and is suitable for all who are interested in nature, botany and especially the world of medicinal plants.
E – DURING THE EXHIBITION WE PREPARED A RICH ACCOMPANYING PEDAGOGICAL AND ANDRAGOGICAL PROGRAM
During the exhibition we prepared a rich accompanying pedagogical program for different age groups.
- At the herbal workshop visitors learn about the wonderful world of herbs with the help of didactic cards and fresh herbs.
- They can create unique bird-feeders from recycled materials.
- From the seeds and other natural materials the participants create a collective image / a mandala and dedicate it to the Earth with a short ritual.
- Participants recognize the various sounds of birds, smell different fresh herbs, recognize seed patterns and try herbal teas at the multi-sensory workshop for blind and partially sighted people (as well as all other groups of visitors).
In terms of content, we focused on ethnobotanics, permaculture and celebrations related to nature and the garden. Teachers have listened to lectures from ethnobotanics and became acquainted with folk narratives about nature. They visited our exhibition in the museum, thus gaining a wider insight into the content itself, which was then explored with children.
The garden was regulated according to the principles of permaculture. Teachers were impressed by experts from this field at a workshop. These teachers then transferred the content to the children. Children first dreamed of what they wanted on their own playground. On the 1st day of spring an exhibition of these plans was presented at the kindergarten entitled "Garden Dreams".
The children brought seeds from home. When the seeds sprouted they were transferred to the garden. Children arranged a vegetable, herbal and fruit garden, planted flowers, cropped trees and arranged a space for socializing. In autumn they collected crops in the garden and prepared a feast from them.
Children watched the changes throughout the year in the garden and celebrated individual holidays through rituals, helping nature to rest or awaken. As a holiday of kindergarten and garden they celebrated St. George’s Day.
Viri in literatura:
Subtitles for photos (also on the calendar):