Waterford's GIY has launched a new fund to support their food education programme 'GROW At School.'
The organistaion has just finished a four-year pilot programme that provided 32 schools across Ireland with enough raised garden beds and seeds for a year's worth of food growing.
They now hope to see every primary school in the country with a garden that can be used for learning how to grow food, exploration, and reconnection with nature.
Following the pilot programme, an evaluation report was conducted that outlined its huge success. The evaluation was measured based on reaction, learning, behaviour, and results.
Teachers found the garden to be a useful tool across most subjects and it allowed them to learn more about pupils in an informal setting. Children were excited and fascinated and the sensory side of food growing really appealed to some pupils.
"Two pupils with sensory needs loved the feel of compost – soft & light going through their fingers,” one teacher from a participating school said.
The gardens provided teachers with the opportunity to link sustainability with science, maths, English, geography, and history.
Children also learned that mistakes are okay, it's good to try again, and about non-processed food being better for your health.
In terms of behavioural changes, children wanted to try new foods because they grew them. They were also calmer and more open to conversation when outside in the garden.
Teachers also noted more inclusivity, well-being, confidence, and social skills among pupils.
GIY aim to deliver their GROW At School programme to roughly 50% of primary schools in Ireland by 2024 and are aiming to support food growth in all schools across the country by 2030.
"The implementation of GROW At School as a national food education & garden-based learning programme would lay the foundations for food system understanding, support sustainable behaviour at school & at home & take a ‘Shared Future’ approach by educating and informing students about food at Primary level," Founder of GIY, Michael Kelly, said.
Between now and 2024, the hope is to see 1,600 schools with their own gardens giving 250,000 school children and roughly 7,5000 teachers access to a school garden or classroom growing kit to provide garden-based learning.
In June 2022, GIY made a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science for the provision of school gardens and support of food growing in primary schools nationwide.
The submission was presented in order to recommend the implementation of food growing in primary schools in Ireland.
For more Waterford stories, click here.