Our Youth Gardening Programme is available as a tailor-made programme spanning a number of weeks or as individual workshops.
HOW INVOLVEMENT IN GARDENING BENEFITS YOUNG PEOPLE:
Gardening benefits kids’ health and well-being, their attitudes towards learning and the environment, their connections to community, and so much more. When it comes to vegetables, if they grow them they eat them! Along with a greater appreciation for nature, gardens can also teach about biology, math, history, nutrition and more. And then between digging, raking and planting, they get plenty of exercise, vitamin D and fresh air.
For World Mental Health Day GAP profiled other benefits of keeping active in the garden:
WORKSHOP 1: COMPOSTING
Students were shown a bowl of finished compost. They were encouraged to touch and smell it. It feels light and fluffy and has little to no smell. Then they were shown the materials they would be using to create their own compost. Food waste, shredded newspaper, grass cuttings, shredded cardboard and weeds from the garden.
They then began to build their compost heap. They were told to add the materials in layers alternating from green (grass, food, weeds) to brown (paper, cardboard). Once they had added all the layers of materials they finished by watering the pile to give it the moisture it requires to get started.
Students learn what compost is made from and start their own compost heap from scratch, which the maintain for the rest of the programme.
Students also learn the importance of the proper disposal of materials. Rather than send food peels, weeds from the garden and newspaper to the dump via the black bin, reuse it. These things are often seen as waste and worthless but should be turned into compost, turning this waste into something valuable.
Composting is not only the most energy efficient way to deal with many common items disposed of in landfills (food waste, cardboard, garden cuttings etc) but it also shows us how much food we are wasting as we are physically engaging with our food waste. For example are we throwing away unused vegetables every week? We can learn from this to reduce our vegetable purchase from then on. Thus reducing costs and waste.
Using food waste from GAP office along with GAP staff contributions and weed cuttings from GLÁS we were able to create a new compost pile which once it is ready can be used to grow plants in the GLÁS community garden.
Students from next years YGP can also avail of using this years compost for their growing needs creating a yearly cycle of compost being made and used by the following group of students.
WORKSHOP 2: PLANTING
Students did their final prep on the planting beds, weeding and loosening the soil. They then measured distances, dug their planting holes and got planting. Students prepped and planted strawberry plants, squashes, beans and shallots.
Planting and understanding gardening and its positive impacts for both the environment and human health is the cornerstone of the youth gardening programme. Each plant requires different prep and care and thus students learn that there is no one-size-fits-all plan to planting.
WORKSHOP 3: Wild Flower Trail
By seeing the value of wildflowers and plants (often known as weeds) to both biodiversity and the natural beauty of an area the students will have a greater appreciation for plant diversity in their local areas and gardens. For example if they allow their garden to grow a little wilder they will encourage more wildlife and a healthier ecosystem, rather than just having a lawn of grass cut to 2 cm off the ground.
Diversity is key to a healthy ecosystem. If you have a large variety of plants growing in an area it will attract a wide variety of animals. This will ensure the natural balance is kept and will reduce the chances of external pressures (adverse weather, diseases etc) from having a long term negative affect on the ecosystem.
Wildflowers are essential to allowing bees and butterflies survive throughout the year. Many plants will flower at different times so if an area only had one or two varieties the insects that rely on flowers for food would only have access to food at the times of year these plants flowered. This can lead to starvation and death of bees and butterflies. However if an area had a large amount of plant species present all flowering at different times these animals would have access to food all year round.
WORKSHOP 4: BIODIVERSITY ANALYSIS
Students will get what is usually their first taste of ecology studies. By taking part in a simplified ecology field study using tools like quadrats and identification keys they are getting the skills they will later use in secondary school and beyond at an earlier age than usual.
They will also begin to critically look at wild flowers in terms of identification. Increasing their knowledge and enjoyment of natural sciences – a natural progression from the previous workshop.
And there is more to come!
If your school or youth group are interested in pollinators, composting and getting more young people learning outdoors contact Padriac for more information.