Secondary schools sprouting kitchen gardens - Education Matters Magazine
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Secondary schools sprouting kitchen gardens

Kitchen garden programs are expanding from the realm of primary schools into the secondary school sector.

Australian secondary schools are digging into food education and introducing kitchen garden programs and activities into their curriculum.

With support from the not-for-profit Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, secondary schools are teaching food education in a variety of ways.

Some schools, such as Melbourne’s Cranbourne East Secondary College, are developing kitchen and gardens where students can grow produce to be used in food technology and home economics classes. Others are using kitchen gardens as alternative learning spaces for subjects such as English, Art, Science and Maths.

Schools are also using their kitchen and gardens as spaces to help students who nd the traditional classroom setting challenging, including students with special needs or behavioural disorders.
More than 800 primary schools are running the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Some of these are feeder schools, and their secondary counterparts are realising the importance of continuing the vital food education these students have been learning.

The Kitchen Garden Foundation’s new Kitchen Garden Classroom membership has enabled secondary schools to access the Foundation’s wealth of knowledge, professional development, resources, support and online community of kitchen garden educators.

Melbourne’s Doncaster Secondary College recently joined as a member of the Foundation’s Kitchen Garden Classroom, and are just beginning their pleasurable food education journey.

The school already has a vegetable garden that contains raised and vertical garden beds and a sensory garden. The garden also incorporates art and seating created by Victorian Certi cate of Applied Learning (VCAL) students at the school.

Produce grown in the school’s garden is being used by food technology and outdoor education students in their cooking classes. The garden space has also been used by the school’s student welfare staff as a quiet place to speak to students.

Simon Cross, Doncaster Secondary College Arts and Technology Learning Area Leader, said the school hopes to widen the use of the school gardens this year.

He said the school also hopes to incorporate kitchen garden learning into a broader range of subjects across the curriculum, and the teaching faculty has many exciting ideas about how to do that.

“I thought the best thing was to sign up (for the Kitchen Garden Classroom membership) and get the ball rolling from there,” he said.

Simon said the garden provided fantastic opportunities to link to the arts curriculum, and they had some interesting projects lined up for the year.

“We’re doing a sculpture for the garden made out of old colanders from the school’s industrial kitchen,” he said.

“And Year 10 students are making ceramic fruit and vegetables that will decorate a totem pole for the garden. They’ve made fantastic dragon fruit, pomegranates and lemons.”

Doncaster Secondary also runs a program called MYSELF (Middle Years Selected Essential Learning for the Future) in Year 9, which provides many options for linking kitchen garden learning and the curriculum.

The MYSELF program runs one day a week, and involves students undertaking real-world learning. The program includes a My Bakery class where students learn hands-on cooking skills.

Simon said the school’s canteen, known as the Doncaster Café, is undergoing a renovation to make it look more like a café, with the refurbishment offering an opportunity in the future to incorporate produce from the school’s garden into the menu.

GS Kidd Memorial School – a school for students with intellectual disabilities in Gunnedah, New South Wales – is running a more structured kitchen garden program with their students.
Kitchen Garden Coordinator Kim Gibson said the school has run weekly garden classes with senior students aged 12–18. She said the garden was also used by junior and intermediate students, aged four to 12, during leisure time and for curriculum-linked activities.

Kim said all students at the school also take part in weekly cooking classes.

“It’s great when children can go out and pick something from the garden and then cook it. Everyone gets a kick out of it,” she said.

Kim said the garden was also used as a stress-free zone for students who were finding the classroom challenging, and needed some time out.

She said environmental education was a priority at the school. The students had helped complete a study into waste management at the school, which resulted in a compost system being developed and posters made about reducing waste.

“The kitchen garden program is covering outcomes across the curriculum all the time. It’s great, it’s integrated into everything,” she said.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation’s Kitchen Garden Classroom membership, professional development, support and resources are open to all secondary schools. The Foundation is working on a suite of new dedicated resources for the secondary sector.

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