Stewardship is what happens once you get to know your “neighbours”! What are the local plants and animals’ names? How do they grow? Which ones are useful, which are invasive? These questions will arise when children have the opportunity to ask. It is becoming harder for children to get to know the outdoors, between fears of threats to their safety, a culture of technology-based entertainment, and for urban kids living in high-rise buildings, lack of access. Even school field trips to an outdoor education centre has been scaled back in recent years.
Caring for the environment will be an empty phrase without direct contact, and you really don’t need to leave the city to find the “environment”. It’s all around us, in the trees, the parks, the ravines, the yards. Children of all ages can grasp the fundamentals of environmental sustainability through the actual experience of interacting with soil, plants, water, compost, worms, bugs, butterflies and all the creatures found in even the most urban locations.
The school food garden is within reach of all children who go to that school, no matter their home situation or whether they have a cottage to escape to in summer. School gardens can transform corners of the city into outdoor classrooms where children learn how their lives are connected to a wider world. The lessons about environmental stewardship can be related to concepts such as water conservation, organic agriculture, waste management, soil health, air quality, ecological footprints, and biodiversity – all of which can be studied in small scale right at school.