NatureToday | A vitamin garden for De Kameleon elementary school

“The food forest belongs to the neighbourhood, neighbors help with the maintenance. It will also be a new meeting place”, say teacher Lucia Greeven and Daan Bleichrodt, one of the initiators of the food forest.

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A vitamin garden for De Kameleon primary school (Source: Utrecht Province)

Lucia says: “I am a group teacher for the young children and have been at this school for 22 years. I want to teach children about healthy food and love nature. And let them experience the wonder when you taste the different flavors from the kitchen garden or see on all the colors of a flower or a kingfisher. Nature is always there, and once you learn to love nature, you can always look for this happiness. And children learn to take good care of nature at an early age.”

Eat the harvest together

“Since 2014, we have vegetable garden boxes here”, Lucia continues enthusiastically. The children love the kitchen garden. When we harvest beets and cook them together, they love it, while we hear from parents that they don’t eat beets at home. And twice a year we cook for the whole school. Kale in winter and endive stew in summer. Due to corona, the kitchen garden has been idle for two years, and the bins were in poor condition. Then Daan came up with the plan for a food forest. I thought it was important that the vegetable garden boxes could also stay and we then made a plan and a map together. We now also have a name for the kitchen garden and the grove: the Vitamin garden.”

Children plant a food bush

Daan: “My son is at Kameleon and through my work at IVN nature education I knew how much fun food bushes can be for children. Another parent, who also lives in the area, already had an initiative for a flower meadow. We then decided to team up and combine the two ideas. We have now created a flower meadow, a food grove and a vegetable garden in raised containers, with the help of Van Ginkel gardeners. And of course one of the children planted the trees for the food garden and the vegetables and herbs in the kitchen garden. The nice thing about a food forest is that we grow food with perennials, and this gives more harvest every year – this is how the students learn about food forestry.”

Nature and healthy food in the educational program

Daan is also working on this project because he thinks it is important that children embrace nature: “I want to teach them how they themselves can contribute to a better climate, more biodiversity and a green living environment. I hope this place ensures that children get out more often and learn more about nature.” Lucia adds: “We have included nature education and knowledge of healthy food in the curriculum in groups 2, 4 and 6. We go outside with the youngest children and look for e.g. animals. The older children receive lessons in the vegetable garden: how to plant, how to grow plants, how to sow, what can and cannot be put together? And we also teach them, for example, that by planting marigolds close to the edge, you have fewer pests in the box. Soon another beehive will be added, and the children will learn how important bees are to the harvest and nature.”

Tips

Lucia has tips for schools that also want to start a vegetable garden: “You need a tractor that is very enthusiastic and really wants to do this. And ask parents or people in the neighborhood for help, because it takes a lot of time. It is also important to find a sponsor or apply for grants. Thanks to the grant from the province of Utrecht, we were now able to create the food garden and place the new kitchen garden boxes. Otherwise it would never have happened!”.

Subsidy Climate-safe, green and healthy cities and villages

The food garden and the renewal of the kitchen garden boxes were made possible with the help of the grant for climate-safe, green and healthy cities and villages from the province of Utrecht. From 1 January 2023, schools can apply again. Municipalities, companies, foundations and companies can also make use of this subsidy.

Text, photos and film: The province of Utrecht (main photo: Daan Bleichrodt, one of the initiators of the food forest)

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