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Just watching the BBC news and the potential of gardening becoming part of the National Curriculum. The Prime Minister's comment in a speech a couple of years ago, which equated gardening skills with litter collection seems to have galvanised the RHS and schools to hit back.
It's a no-brainer for me, and I'm sure most people on this forum, to know that gardening provides the basic essentials for the majority of sciences. My own interest in gardening, which started mumbly mumbly years ago, sparked my interest and resulted in a degree in Environmental Earth Sciences.
I'm still a strong advocate of litter collection though. Litter ruins the look of a garden
Gardening used to be taught and was discontinued because new subjects became compulsory and it was squeezed out. There are five hours of lessons a day. That is a fact of life and every new idea taken up squeezes out an older one. It tended to be taught to those pupils who were regarded as not capable of more academic subjects, and this is another real obstacle. Because of the National Curriculum, there is no space in the timetable to single out less academically able pupils for gardening lessons. To argue for its being taught to all pupils, it would have to be made more theoretical, which would possibly kill its appeal anyway!
I wonder whether the way forward is gardening clubs, as was featured on a tv news item the other day. A school had an orchid club and pupils were becoming expert in their care. Schools often have space for a garden, gardening's recreational and educational value is undeniable and the vegetable proceeds could be eaten as part of school dinners (less yukky than they used to be) or sold in aid of school funds or a chosen charity. This requires an enthusiastic teacher or two, willing to give up their time to encourage an interest in gardening - or some volunteer parents.
There are so many competing subject areas, and not enough time in the curriculum to reach a level of knowledge and skill that would merit a GCSE qualification. I am a teacher, and I see children leaving school after GCSE's with zero understanding of politics and society, yet if the Scottish idea catches on in the rest of the UK, they will be eligible to vote within a few months of leaving school. Those same children may have a vague recollaction of trudging through 'Of Mice and Men' and analysed the backside of Curly, or wrestled with Ye Olde English of Romeo and Juliet, but can't write a letter of application for a job that isn't full of spelling and grammar mistakes. Same goes for maths (one of my subjects). I teach 6th formers in General Studies and most of them have forgotten how to calculate percentage change!
Having aspects of gardening in the curriculum is a nice concept, and the way to do it is through embedding it into KS3 Science topics. For example, photosynthesis, or reproduction ( flower structure seed germination). A few months ago my year 8 class studied the structure of fuchsia flowers using material from my garden. They loved it!
You and I must have been replying at the same time, Gold1locks, with much the same ideas in mind. KS3 is an interesting suggestion, but probably won't satisfy those who want it to be a more major part of education.
Gardening can be embedded into so many things. Geography, where does the food on my plate originate, environment, how many miles did this travel and how big is it's carbon footprint, Biology, mono and di-cotyledon leaves (seed leaves, as opposed to true leaves), photosynthesis etc, History, and why we had to 'dig for victory'.
I would love to teach this, currently it's only on offer at the 'pupil referral unit' in our LEA, so it's reserved for naughty and challenging boys and girls, along with motor vehicle engineering and home economics and child development (some of the girls who attend already have babies). Unfortunately I don't have a degree, despite having worked in IT for many years, so can't re-train as a teacher, as you now need a first or higher second honours degree to even be considered as an applicant for a PGCE. This despite the fact that I quality checked all of my husband's work and suggested improvements when he did his PGCE - mind you, he wouldn't get on the course now, as his degree isn't an honours degree. Oh, yes, and the Government have removed the bursaries that were available if you were intelligent enough to string a sentence together and wished to re-train to be a teacher as a mature student. There will be a massive shortage of teachers once the Economy picks up, as a lot of them are biding their time in a job which is relatively secure (although my Husband has recieved notice of potential redundancy for the second time within a year), until the economy picks up and then they will be off - most of my Husband's colleagues in Engineering are already looking, one took redundancy last year and is now working in Dubai, for silly money per year. Go figure that one out.
I've always reckoned that the almost the entire National Curriculum (bless its strangulating little socks) could be taught through gardening/growing. However, like music, modern languages and several other subjects, to impose it would mean it may be taught inadequately by people who don't really know much about it and don't particularly want to. Then the children would be turned off for life I'm talking Primary age here as that's my experience.
When you look at how the world is changing, and the interest that many children have in the environment, doesn't it make sense to have something in place for them to pursue-possibly as a career? However,there are only so many hours in the school day and only so much teachers can be expected to give. My girls have been lucky enough to attend 2 of the best primary and secondary schools in Scotland and there was a gardening club at primary which some of the teachers valiantly helped with. Not every child is academic and there needs to be something else for them to do. Sadly at high school level there seems to be nothing in a horticultural sense amongst all the other out of school activities. My older daughter has always been interested in 'nature' and can take cuttings etc but I don't force her to do 'stuff'in the garden as they have to want it. The other one's only interested in nail varnish and gossiping with her friends...!
Teachers constantly get a bad press which is often unfair. Personally I wouldn't do their job for any amount of money when you see the c**p they put up with on a daily basis.
Schools are encouraged in Bristol to take classes for guided tours of the Bristol University Botanic Garden. These children are a delight to take round. You should see the interested faces as I point out the plant whose beans give us the vanilla in their ice-cream, the tea, coffee and cocoa plant and show them the big nut with chocolate beans inside, the sugar that makes their jam and sweets, They happily run lavender, rosemary. mint and sage through their fingers and sniff. We go back in time to 500 million years ago and through Evolutionary Dell where their imaginations run riot when we come into the tree ferns and the age of the dinosaurs. We have wicker models of all the pollinators, insect and mammal. Many of the gardens are foreign - We visit New Zealand, South Africa, China, the Mediterranean. I love taking a school party round, much more interesting questions than the adult groups. And I could not imagine an adult group singing "Daisy, Daisy" to the South African daisies in the Warm Temperate greenhouse like the children do when I explain about plants using up the carbon dioxide we give out when we talk and sing to grow and give us something useful back like food or clothes or building material. Some of them are astonished to see oats and gasp when they hear their poage oats come from a plant. One little four year old got so excited when ho saw the bananas in the Tropicall House he asked if we had monkeys! Luckily the Zoo is not far away.
back in ye olde days, we had a lesson called rural science, which covered allotment gardening, chicken rearing (and fattening, killing, plucking and seling) and food production. As I remember, we spent a great deal of time digging the school plot and precious little sowing or planting or designing etc. In no way did it inspire us to garden. (it did perhaps teach us to double dig, and vow never to do it again)
What did inspire me was the time spent in our own garden with my parents, the time spent on the allotment ( which would nowadays be seen as forced labour ) and watching Geoff Hamilton on television.
You paint a lovely picture, HM. It is great when children get in touch wih their connection with nature.
I'd love to see gardening taught as an academic subject connected with biology, so that more people took up a career in horticulture. One of the saddest things, to me, is that so many people are unemployed while our parks and public gaardens are neglected. We need a greater emphasis on horticulture for many reasons, one of which is that it gives people the opportunity to take a pride in their local environment and to feel that they live somewhere good.
To add a little to that GG, I think it is really important that children (and adults) understand where their food comes from and how the seasons affect what is available and that it is not just 'there' on the supermarket shelves.