The New Student's Reference Work/School-Garden, The
School-Garden, The. Among progressive school-people there is a growing interest in the school-garden. In cities, in normal schools and even in the country, the schoolchildren are set to work cultivating flower and vegetable gardens. The school-garden is an outgrowth of regular school-work; it is one striking phase of the effort to get out of doors, away from books and into contact with the real world. It is a healthy realism putting more vigor and intensity into school-work.
The school-garden has an important relation to several school-studies. First of these is nature-study. There is no better way of bringing children into contact with plant-life than by raising flowers and vegetables in the garden. The boys and girls get out of doors, prepare the soil, plant the seed, watch with great interest the growth of plants, cultivate them through the season, and finally observe the growth and ripening of the fruit. This whole cycle of growth and change is the most fundamental thing in plant-study, and nothing can be more interesting to children than this process when they themselves are concerned in the products of the garden. In the second place the garden has a very important place in the study of geography. In the home-geography in the early grades classes of children are required to visit the gardens and study the processes of cultivation and marketing the products. These are fundamental lessons in geography. In this way gardening leads on to agriculture, scientific farming, fruit-raising and the improvement of country life generally.
There is a strong tendency in all parts of the country to turn the attention of children strongly toward these outdoor studies. The garden naturally suggests farming, the raising of corn and other grains, the feeding of cattle, dairying and butter-making, fruit-culture, as of berries, stone-fruits, apples and pears. Scientific agriculture and fruit-raising are based on principles of careful selection of seed and of wise cultivation, of fertilizing and preserving soils, of grafting, pruning and caring for fruit-trees and of spraying against insect-pests. All these things are vitally interesting to children, and put new meaning into country life.
The school-garden even has an important relation to esthetics. Floriculture, landscape-gardening, tree-planting and fruit-culture appeal to the sense of beauty. The whole yard and garden together need to be planted and laid out on principles of taste and attractiveness.
Perhaps the most important relation of the school-garden is that to the home. Where boys and girls become properly interested in the school-garden, they naturally desire to raise a garden at home in their own back-yard and perhaps flowerbeds and trees in the front yard. This answers in many ways to the necessities and comforts of the home. The whole town may take on a new appearance, in its yards and gardens, on account of this interest developed in the school-garden. Beauty and utility are here combined in the best way; the home-table is supplied with vegetables and beautified by the flowers which the children themselves raise.
The educative effect upon the boy or girl of carrying out through the whole season plans for cultivating a garden is one of the best products of good training. The cultivation of plants requires constant attention, forethought, intelligence, self-reliance and a kind of originality; difficulties are to be met and overcome. Insects infest the plants and must be gotten rid of; chickens scratch up and spoil the garden and a fence is needed for protection; a dry spell calls for some plan of watering; weeds quickly take possession of a garden; and the child must be intelligent and thoughtful in meeting such difficulties. This is the best kind of training. To say the least, it is far better than letting the boy run wild on the streets and getting into all sorts of mischief.
Most of our progressive normal schools in all parts of the country are taking up the problem of school-gardens, not for the children simply but for the teachers. Young teachers are set to work to learn the whole problem, so that they may later guide the children in garden work. It is clear that the school-garden is to occupy an important place in the future education of boys and girls.
The value of school-gardens in education has long been recognized in Europe. They were started as early as 1819 in Schleswig-Holstein. In 1869 they were prescribed by law in Austria and Sweden, in Belgium since 1873 and in France since 1880. There are at present about 20,000 schools in Austria having gardens, 45,000 in France, 8,000 in Russia and 2,500 in Sweden. The number in the latter country once was double the present number, but has decreased since the introduction of manual training. School gardening is practically obligatory for the children of the common schools of Belgium, Netherlands, British West Indies and Ceylon. Many German cities teach agriculture by “demonstration” in which the pupils are not allowed any share. Many of the schools of France and Germany have gardens “not with a view to instructing the pupils in agriculture, but for the benefit of the teachers.” Many of the foreign governments subsidize the school-gardens, offer prizes, and make training in agriculture obligatory for normal-school graduates.
It may be said in conclusion that school-gardens have an important relation to manual training and to the whole subject of industrial education. It is a phase of manual training to teach children to use the tools and implements of the garden, to prepare the soil and carefully cultivate plants. It is an outdoor physical training combined with intelligent mental effort quite equal in its effects to shop-work and in some ways superior.
Some of the great universities, like Cornell, Illinois, Ohio and Louisiana, have taken up the problem of school agriculture, country life and scientific farming in earnest. Pamphlets are published by experts of agriculture dealing with important phases of school agriculture and school-gardens. Consult Jewell's Agricultural Education (Bul. 368, U. S. Bureau of Education).