Cultivating ‘health’ in the school garden

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Sport, Education and Society


There has been a recent surge in the popularity of school gardening programmes with different models claiming to address learning outcomes within the curriculum. For example, the ‘kitchen garden’ concept has had a rapid uptake across many Australian schools, promoted by both government curriculum support documents, and private organisations. Research points to the ‘use’ of school gardens as an initiative that predominantly draws on discourses of health, wellbeing and sustainability–sometimes together but also often quite separately. Despite the rapid uptake of gardening initiatives in schools, and the explicit mention of ‘gardening’ in State based variations of the Australian National Curriculum, we know very little about how school gardens are being conceptualised by Health and Physical Education (HPE) teachers as part of their teaching–either in primary or secondary contexts. This paper utilises data from a larger study which investigated how 24 generalist primary and secondary specialist HPE teachers talked about ‘environmental health’ within Health and Physical Education. The purpose of this paper is twofold: first it examines the range of discourses, that is, the different meanings and values, the teachers in the study associated with gardening as a practice expected of environmentally healthy citizens. Second, we draw on material and embodied knowledge to demonstrate how the very diverse ways the teachers talked about gardening, provide ‘conditions of possibility’ for thinking critically about gardening, and how school gardens might be positioned within the context of HPE.

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