- About the Program
- Join the Program
- Our Subscription Program
- Workshops & Training
- Learn more
Southern Support School’s Kitchen Garden Program flourishes01-10-2012
The variety of schools implementing the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program across Australia is truly astounding – from remote schools like Indulkana Anangu Schools in outback South Australia, to tiny rural schools like Benarkin State School in Queensland with only 31 students, to big inner-city schools like North Melbourne PS. We recently received some wonderful feedback from Southern Support School, a special school in Tasmania, about how the Program is having an impact on the students and School community.
‘Many of us, senior staff included, think the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program is the best thing we have ever been involved in.
Perhaps the biggest success for us would be about how the Program has helped with the many feeding issues that we have. A large proportion of students with special needs have feeding issues which have a huge impact on their everyday lives. For many children with special needs, trying new foods is very difficult. For some children, success may be just being in the same room as a new food, for others trying it may mean licking but not tasting it.
Students attend a 45 minute garden class followed by a 90 minute kitchen class. We usually have 15 students with 10 adults. The class is split into five groups consisting of three students and two adults and each group cooks a different dish.
Some recent dishes cooked during kitchen classes are:
- Moroccan chickpea and quinoa salad
- Orange and fennel salad
- Pizza of the imagination
The recipes may appear to be pretty advanced for a special school, but we operate on the principle of partial participation – all students should be included in all activities irrespective of the fact that they may not be able to do them independently. At the extreme end of the spectrum are students in wheelchairs, who cannot move limbs and communicate by eye gaze. These students can still enjoy at least the social elements involved in garden and kitchen classes. Some of our students are quite independent and there are lots in between! Despite this, we always get our gardening and harvesting done and there is always a delicious meal on the table at 12 noon!
We have been absolutely amazed at how our students are participating in the Program. Students are showing increased eagerness for school on kitchen garden class days. Most of our students are sitting at the table to eat and many students with autism are eating a wider range of foods and in larger amounts. Children are eating foods with us that they would never touch at home.
It’s ok for students to put food on their plate even if they don't eat it – it’s an achievement for them to get that close to food sometimes. I think that the exposure to the food really helps - the time spent working in the garden and then preparing the food really helps with them getting used to the smell and texture of the foods. Also, our kitchen and dining area are located in part of our gym so the whole gym area generally smells of delicious foods – again this is helping to get our kids used to the foods.
It’s important for students to serve themselves – it’s far too common for students with special needs to have food put on a plate for them. We encourage the students to choose what they want and serve themselves. Another important aspect is 'processing time' – quite often our kids need time to get used to the idea of what they are going to do – one young man didn't appear to be eating much at first, but then we realised that he was taking nearly 30 minutes of sitting at the table before he felt he could eat. Now we let him stay as long as he wants. Having the adults sit with the students and enjoy the meal makes a huge difference – it creates a lovely family style atmosphere.
In special schools we often cook with our kids as it is a great way to include communication, maths and social skills but never with the fantastic results that we are getting from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.’
Thank you to Pauline Snell, Program Coordinator at Southern Support School, for generously taking the time to write about the Kitchen Garden Program’s impact at the School.
Southern Support School have a fantastic kitchen garden blog which they update regularly: http://ssskitchengarden.blogspot.com.au/
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program is available to all Australian schools with a primary curriculum. For more information about joining the Program click here.
The photos above show the Kitchen Garden Program in action at Southern Support School. In one of the photos you can see how a boy with no sight participates in a sensory activity with a selection of herbs and produce from the garden for him to feel, smell and taste.
Back to Latest News