The importance of teaching gardening in schools


At a time when school leaders are under pressure to deliver a high-quality academic curriculum, finding time to teach gardening might seem to be a step too far. Yet, in a time when we know that many schools are seeing an increasing number of pupils struggling with their well-being and mental health, gardening can make a valuable contribution to a rich personal development curriculum.

We know that lockdown placed a significant strain on the mental health of some pupils, unable to meet up with their friends at a time when building social skills is a crucial part of their development, and was worse still for those pupils who didn’t have the benefit of a garden at home and were unable to spend time outside. The increased use of social media and screen time at home has meant that there is a risk of too many pupils becoming sedentary and leading unhealthy lifestyles. Gardening can go a long way towards addressing this. Digging, weeding and planting can be demanding physical work which gets pupils outdoors and active and, when the British weather allows, enjoying the sunshine which is known to be a major contributory factor to mental health.

Awe and wonder

All primary school teachers will recognise the excitement (what we used to call the ‘awe and wonder’) of young children in early years as they learn outdoors and experience new things for the first time. There is a real risk that as they move through school, pupils lose the opportunity for these exciting first-hand experiences, and their love of learning diminishes. Gardening can help them to maintain these experiences while linking to practical examples in the curriculum, such as plant life cycles and growth in science, and understanding where their food comes from and nutrition and healthy eating in food technology.

Pupil growth

So many pupils have limited opportunity to visit the countryside and be connected to nature, whereas schools that enable pupils to grow their own food and then cook and eat it know what an enriching learning experience this can be. Some pupils learn about vegetables that they may not recognise from home, and even the pickiest eaters are likely to eat something that they’ve contributed to producing. In addition, so much of what we learn in the news now tells us about the impact of climate change and the need for environmental sustainability, and young people are often the most vocal advocates for this. Gardening gives them the opportunity to contribute to this first-hand, teaching them about eco-systems, the interdependence between plants, animals, and humans, and helping them to gain an understanding of sustainable practices.


We all know that for some pupils, for a range of reasons, a traditional academic curriculum is not going to meet their needs. Some are frustrated by learning in the classroom and are at risk of disengaging with a school system that doesn’t enable them to succeed. A curriculum that offers them a balance of core subjects and more practical experiences is often what they need, and, for many, outdoor experiences are an essential part of this. Not only can they have the pleasure of watching something that they have planted grow, but they can often apply knowledge to practical skills such as problem solving, and designing and building outdoor spaces, giving them a sense of achievement which may then re-engage them into learning and feed into positive future life choices.

Resources to get started

There are so many benefits of teaching gardening in schools, but we know that teachers are busy people. However, there are a range of resources available to teachers to support with this:

home / RHS Campaign for School Gardening is an excellent starting point, linking to a number of projects, awards and practical activities to enable schools to get started.

Gardening Resources | Edina Trust offers links to various opportunities for schools such as the big sunflower project and grow your own potatoes.

Garden Organic | School gardening resources provides practical advice and activities on how to start and maintain an organic food growing garden.

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