An Edible Playground transforms an area in the school grounds into a space that is used to extend children’s learning. Aside from the physical health benefits that eating well brings, learning in an outdoor environment combats Nature Deficit Disorder and has been shown to increase mental health by boosting mood, confidence and self-esteem. Furthermore, allowing the children to connect with nature develops attentiveness and self-reliance in the pupils, leading to more sustainable behaviours in the long term.
Edible Playgrounds can also have positive effects beyond the school grounds, particularly when it comes to encouraging enterprise. For example, St Paul’s school in Whitechapel has links with a local chef, who buys the surplus produce from the garden. We also work with School Food Matters, which helps their partner schools take produce to market.
Trees for Cities supports schools for a year after their Edible Playground has been built. We create planting plans, growing guides and work with teachers to link these into their teaching plans. We also develop curriculum resources and deliver training to teachers and pupils.
To date, we have supported 100 Edible Playgrounds across the UK. Most of our schools have been primary schools and in urban areas. We are looking to roll our this successful programme further and support more inner city schools.
To maximise the benefits, an Edible Playground has to become part of the school’s ethos: it has to fit with the school identity.
School staff will naturally have differing levels of knowledge about planting, harvesting and even about vegetables. It is vital to train teachers how to integrate an Edible Playground into their lessons in a way that is meaningful rather than a tokenistic exercise.
Schools are discovering that getting students to grow their own greens has benefits beyond healthy eating and unusual learning opportunities. Edible playgrounds teach pupils about nutrition, encourage physical activity, and can help with food poverty. They are also a much-needed source of fresh produce in “food deserts” – local areas where it is a struggle to find healthy, affordable produce.
Involving parents, carers and other members of the community helps to maintain an Edible Playground and for more people to benefit and enjoy it.