It’s Friday lunchtime at Matthew Flinders Anglican College in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast and students in the Primary School are getting their hands dirty.
As part of the Flinders Edible Garden Club, 25 girls and boys spend their lunch break tending to the six raised garden beds they have helped plant with a mix of veggies, herbs, fruit and flowers.
There are banana plants and lemonade fruit trees to water, new seedlings to plant, and compost to make. It’s fun to look for worms in the rich soil, and some students like to test their own memory by identifying the perennials growing in the garden beds, including tulsi (perennial basil), Brazilian spinach, Okinawa spinach, Malabar spinach, kale, ginger, tumeric and herbs such as rosemary, thyme and basil.
“The minute students arrive we notice their energy lift as they set about investigating how the gardens have grown since their last visit,” said Year 4 teacher Paul Anderson who, along with English specialist teacher Jill Kydd, facilitates this weekly gardening club, open to every Flinders student from Prep to Year 6.
“It’s wonderful to witness the sense of pride they have for this garden because they are helping to design and nurture it from week to week.”
The edible garden is a student-led space because it’s clear that when students have input about what is grown in the gardens, they become more excited and engaged. This year, club members voted on eating pizza later in the term so they have planted annuals such as sweet potato, pumpkin, lettuce, capsicum, eggplant and cucumber to enjoy.
Word is spreading about the club, which was started six years ago by a group of Primary School parents with green thumbs and an appreciation for the positive role gardens play in boosting children’s health and happiness.
Research shows when children are involved in gardening they become healthier and less fussy eaters, their motor skills and strength improve, their confidence builds, their stress and anxiety reduces, and they gain respect for the environment through their knowledge of composting and recycling.
Being an edible garden, the focus is on how a garden’s bounty can teach and delight.
“Students are most excited when they can pick their own produce and share it with their families,” Paul said.
“They tell us of making a salad or cooking a meal with mum or dad, and of veggie gardens they are starting at home because of the influence at school.
“Our Flinders Edible Garden Club is such a positive space for these young children to be in. We would love to see every child in our Primary School take part in some way. We know that everyone feels happier and healthier when they garden.”
Image caption: Flinders Edible Garden Club members enjoy gardening in their lunchtimes.