In a first-of-its-kind, the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation – in partnership with AstraZeneca Australia – is developing a curriculum-integrated kitchen garden program for secondary schools. We checked in with one of the first pilot schools, Western Heights College, to discuss their successes and challenges in setting up their kitchen garden program, since coming on board in July 2018. When we first met the team at Western Heights College, we were blown away by their enthusiasm and shared ethos for the kitchen garden program. After staff attended one of our Professional Development sessions, they took students to visit a school with a more established kitchen garden program to explore the possibilities. The students left inspired, with the bus-ride back to school a bubbling hive of ideas on what they could achieve.
From the beginning of undertaking the program, Western Heights set the precedent for this to be a student-led initiative and are reaping the rewards. Disengaged students are shining throughout the process, when given the opportunity to learn in this environment. Brendan Bolton, who has years of experience running a Kitchen Garden Programs in primary schools, was recruited to support the infrastructure build of the garden.. With Brendan’s support, a team of VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) students got stuck in to construct and plant the school’s productive patch.
Kitchen Garden Program Coordinator and Technology Leader, Stacey Marriage, has been with Western Heights for four years, working alongside fellow Food Technology teacher Fran Smith. “I have loved having the garden so close and being able to use fresh ingredients. I’m naturally drawn to the process of growing, harvesting, preparing and sharing,” explained Stacey.
The program engages a wide range of students, from food technology students, to an onsite VET (Vocational Education and Training) horticulture group that tends to the garden two days a week. Students in a re-engagement program are also involved. At a fork in the road with their schooling, the program sees them work in the garden on a regular basis with Brendan, with positive results. “The older kids especially enjoy it and see a real-life application for the learning,” explained Stacey. Stacey is continuing to expand the program’s reach with a broader whole school approach, bringing together science, maths, English and food tech departments.
The local community also enjoys the benefits of the kitchen garden program at Western Heights. Excess produce that is harvested is included in a garden cart in the Community Centre attached to the school. The produce is paid for by gold coin donation with proceeds going back into the program to buy seeds and tools. A huge apple and pear harvest didn’t go to waste, “The students were thrilled that everything sold out in the first five minutes, it was really encouraging for them,” said Stacey.
However, as we often hear about the kitchen garden program, it all boils down to small moments. “It’s seeing the enjoyment in student’s faces with such fresh produce from our apple and pear harvest, eating it straight from the tree,” explained Stacey.
The Kitchen Garden Program for the Secondary Years is due to launch at the end of 2020. Any Australian secondary school can integrate it with their curriculum, and use the program to achieve an array of health, wellbeing, learning and community engagement objectives.
If you want to learn more about the pilot of the Kitchen Garden Program for Secondary Years, please don’t hesitate to contact our Support Team on 13000 SAKGF (13000 72543) or email@example.com
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