They sow, they water, they weed, they play, they harvest. Youngsters in Copenhagen love their school gardens. They are connecting with a slice of cultural history that is more than a century old. Once almost forgotten, school gardens have made a comeback.
From April to harvest time, life flourishes in the six parts of Copenhagen that still have school gardens. In 1956, there were 31 of them and they did a grand job of supplying city households with fruit and vegetables. Gradually, however, their importance waned. As green areas were purchased for housing developments, the gardens disappeared one by one.
Today, the remaining gardens are the subject of growing interest from children and schools. Classes tend the gardens as part of their curriculum, and a lot of pupils have adopted them as a leisure pursuit.
The gardens are scattered throughout the city. Usually, the children have a piece of land to look after, and there is a larger common area where everyone grows plums, apples and so on. Some of the gardens have bees and chickens, too.
The first Copenhagen school garden opened on Kløvermarksvej in 1904. The aim was to give the city’s children a bit of fresh air, which many of them badly needed – the city’s backyards and overcrowded tenements were not healthy environments.
Another aim was to teach children about nature, physical activity and the senses. The brains behind the idea, schoolteacher P.W. Lindholm, felt that school gardens would be useful teaching aids for all subjects, and would help instil a sense of responsibility and good work habits into the pupils.
His ideas remain valid, and the gardens are now used to teach children how their actions make a difference to nature and the environment.