GIY piloted a school food growing and research programme in 32 primary schools across Ireland for four years (2019-2022), thanks to funding from The Community Foundation Ireland. In May of 2022, Interactions Research conducted research to evaluate this research programme and look into its impact on primary schools and their students.
The GROW At School programme aims to ensure that every child can have a solid education in food literacy and seeks to do this through phases. The first of which, planning to cover 1,600 schools, aims to provide each school with the kit of four raised beds of soil to fill them, seeds and other materials, along with teacher training and ongoing support to help the growing patches to flourish.
From a teaching perspective, the research conducted showed that the garden allowed them to get closer to the pupils and learn more about them in an informal setting, having a substantial impact on the students – as well as themselves as the programme motivated them to learn more and grow more at home actively. Some challenges faced, however, included pest control and monitoring watering during the summer months.
For students, teachers noted a high impact regarding inclusivity, well-being, confidence, social skills and cooperation, and organisational skills; “I have seen huge progress in group work & paired work”.
Our research showed that the garden is used as both a formal and informal teaching tool, proving relevant to most subjects in the curriculum, particularly science, maths, language, geography, history and sustainability. But teachers also report its use in developing the “soft skills” of patience, resilience and co-operation. They note behavioural changes in pupils such as trying new foods, planting at home, calmed behaviour and a more positive outlook on coming to school.
Overall the programme was viewed as a very positive experience for the children, teaching them respect for their surroundings and the environment and developing skills necessary for life.
“Being rewarded for all your effort – it is really worth it.”