GARDENStoGROW Urban Horticulture for Innovative and Inclusive Early Childhood Education is a project co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, that aims to create educational gardens and training courses for early childhood teachers and school managers to develop basic, civic and transversal skills for the 3-6 age group.
The GARDENStoGROW project has been created because the improvement of education in the earliest stages of development can reduce disparities and inequalities at their roots, with a considerable socio-economic return in later years.
School gardens are spreading all over Europe, as natural places where children can have; real contact with nature, discover the origin of their food, observe owers and vegetables growing, experiment with natural growth, learn life skills such as responsibility, cooperation and self- con dence through achieving. However, the permanent exploration of school gardens is often dif cult to achieve due to several factors: unsuitable school location (land availability or contamination), diffcultly accessing water, lack of funds, access and maintenance limitation during the school holidays, lack of specialised teachers or personnel for permanent and expert garden care besides pedagogical activities.
The Commission has emphasised that “access to universally available, high quality inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services is beneficial for all. It not only helps children to unlock their potential, but can also contribute to engaging parents and other family members with related measures to improve employment, job-related training, parent education, and after school activities” (Report of the Working Group on ECEC).
According to the Commission Communication “Early Childhood Education and Care: Providing all our children with the best start for the world of Tomorrow”, “high quality early childhood education and care can make a strong contribution – through enabling and empowering all children to realise their potential – to achieve two of the Europe 2020 headline education targets: reducing early school leaving to below 10% and lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion” (COM(2011) 66 nal). The project also refers to the Strategic framework – Education & Training 2020, more speci cally to the EU benchmark for 2020 “at least 95% of children (from 4 to compulsory school age) should participate in early childhood education”.
The project encourages the adoption of innovative and inclusive pedagogical practices at pre- school level, based on urban and social horticulture, through a series of outputs and a exible and open training programme, so that ECEC teachers can transform gardening into inclusive and effective educational activities for the development and acquisition of transversal, social, civic and intercultural competences.
Gardens created within the GARDENStoGROW project will allow children from different backgrounds to participate in an inclusive learning environment, with no prejudice to any kind of discrimination, enhancing the access, participation and learning performance of disadvantaged learners.
The project also aims to strengthen the teaching profession: making the careers of teachers and school leaders more attractive through a European opportunity; supporting teachers in dealing with diversity in the classroom (including pupils with a migrant background), through hands-on and non formal activities based on horticulture, supporting them in adopting collaborative and innovative practices; strengthening leadership in education, through an active involvement from the school leaders.
Project duration: 01/09/2017-29/02/2020 (30 months).