THE ROOT-TO-GROW PROGRAM
How it works
STEP 1 : FUNDING
STEP 2 : WORMS FARM
STEP 3 : ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS
STEP 4 : PLANNING AND PLANTING
STEP 5 : A TEACHING GARDEN
STEP 6 : FREE HANDBOOKS
Get that grant!
Funding any school project is always a key concern. If you’re lucky, your school’s administration will fully support your gardening project.
If not, there are plenty of ways to find financial support. Root-to-Grow has successfully secured sponsors over the past few years and can assist and advise how to motivate and obtain a grant or sponsorship to fund your school vegetable garden project.
Here are the primary goals for a Root-to-Grow school garden program you can borrow and adapt for your grant or sponsorship applications.
• To expose students to hands-on environmental education
• To enhance the curriculum by connecting lessons and activities to the natural world
• To teach students with the opportunity to grow their own food and eat fresh produce
• To offer parents an opportunity to participate in the program and engage with the
school and surrounding community
FIRST STEP TO FRESH VEGGIES
Earthworms play a vital ecological role in conditioning the soil and increasing its fertility by breaking down organic waste and converting it into highly fertile compost, which promotes vigorous and healthy plant growth.
So to start off, Root-to-Grow will introduce worm farms to the schools.
Worm farms are established in plastic containers and are odourless. These farms are 100% safe around children and it allows anyone to participate in the process of recycling. The worm farms turns your organic household waste (including the leftovers in the student’s lunchboxes) into rich compost and liquid fertilizer.
The innovative stacking tray design allows for easy removal of the finished worm castings from the bottom tray and liquid fertilizer from the collector tank – without having to handle the worms or decomposing organic waste.
Finding the best location for your school garden
Root-to-Grow will try to find the best location for your school garden, based on how much sun the area gets and whether the soil is healthy. For the best results, your vegetable garden should get at least eight full hours of sun each day.
If you will be planting directly into the soil, get it tested to make sure there is no lead or other toxic contaminants. Your green space may be limited or you may find you have chemicals in your soil; in these situations, Root-to-Grow will consider container gardening or creating raised beds or vehicle tyres that can be used as vegetable gardens.
The soil from the worm farms will be used to fill the beddings and the liquid from the farms will be used to fertilize the gardens.
NOW THE FUN BEGINS!
Planning and planting
Root-to-Grow will draw a working map of your school garden and advise what grows best in your climate and when to plant. All seeds, seedlings, compost, soil and garden equipment will be supplied, along with the labour to prepare the beddings and assist the children to plant.
Irrigation and watering of the school vegetable garden will also be discussed, as water tanks, hoses and/or a sprinkler system might be required. Root-to-Grow will provide regular plant and harvest reports.
A TEACHING GARDEN
A valuable educational tool
Once Root-to-Grow have your school vegetable garden up and running, teachers can really start using it as a valuable educational tool. Just by planning and planting, you’ll already be teaching the children about what a plant needs to grow and where food comes from.
You could also use the garden to teach basic math skills in both the planting and harvesting stages. Students can count how many plants are in the garden, or how many tomatoes turned red from one plant. Older children can use the garden to think about cost analysis, using simple addition and subtraction.
Students can also do a comparison between how many seeds they plant and how many actually grow or practice sorting the different vegetables or seeds based on various characteristics.
A school garden provides built-in nutrition education. Children can pick fruits and vegetables for a healthy afternoon snack, and the garden can provide hands-on education about the food groups.
The garden is also a good way to teach students about giving back. The school could donate some or all of the garden’s bounty to a local soup kitchen, struggling families and/or the community to help fight hunger.
The possibilities of lessons learned from your school garden are endless. As students watch the fruits of their labour grow, you can be sure you’ve helped create a tool for experiential learning that will teach teamwork, cooperation, and a life-long respect for the environment.
Teaching for a greener future
Pieter Strauss from Root-to-Grow has written two handbooks, which teach students about the environment and global warming, and have been translated in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and German.