School Food Gardens in France: Great ideas for kids' food education

School Food Gardens have a long history in France, going back to the 19th century as universal schooling was being introduced. School gardens were required for all rural schools, and were designed as instructional gardens (as well as sources of food). But their importance has declined over the past 40 years as the proportion of the population destined for farming employment has declined. And it has always been a challenge to maintain school gardens in urban areas, given how dense French cities and towns tend to be.

In the past few years, however, school gardens have become popular again. Across France, kids celebrate ‘School Gardens’ week, and schools participate in contests (my favorite is the national ‘Best School Flower Garden’ contest, held every March). Schools without a garden can now ‘adopt a garden’ in the neighborhood; and urban gardening on unused urban spaces has also seen a resurgence.

Teachers also integrate gardens into school lessons. For younger children, gardening teaches basic biology and fine motor skills. For older children, lessons range from the scientific (biology, agronomy, health) to the practical (agriculture and gardening techniques), and the political (given that France is fiercely proud of its farmers and its agricultural tradition) to the the artistic (art classes get to go and draw the gardens in various stages of development). In fact, there is a long tradition in France of linking gardening to art, going back to André Le Nôtre, one of the fathers of modern landscape architecture, and designer of the gardens at Versailles.

Gardens, for the French, are more than sources of food. They’re also a way to educate children, and to inspire them–in the sciences and the arts. What an interesting contrast to the North American school gardening movement, which is much more narrowly focused on healthy food. Seems like a great approach that we might adopt here at home.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “School Food Gardens in France: Great ideas for kids' food education

  1. Sure! Unfortunately most of the references are in French.

    Here is one interesting ‘micro-garden’ initiative (the ‘new’ twist on school gardens this year, sponsored by the French Ministry of National Education). Teachers work with students to create mini-gardens, either ‘nomadic’ (transportable containers which are moved around the school grounds), ‘urban’ (in cities where they only have a paved schoolyard, they dig up some of the concrete, and let some greenery back in!), or ‘A4’ (tiny plots the size of a normal piece of paper in France).

    Here’s a short video of a school garden in Paris (in English!):

    Hope this is useful!


  2. I would also be interested in information on a few specific school gardens in France. Our local elementary school in Vermont (U.S.) is always interested in new ideas for developing (and sustaining) a school garden.


  3. I am a Principal of Mayfield East Primary School in New South Wales Australia and we have an extensive garden and full student kitchen for our 245students We grow many foods for our kitchen and all students learn to cook to combat obesity and improve nutrition . Would love to visit some gardens in France while I am over in September this year any recommendations Here from you soon. Alan


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