School Within a Garden

At GMS, our children explore in the gardens and in nature on a daily basis, watching the rhythm of life unfold, their innate curiosity is sparked and they are able to tie lessons from the classroom back into the world and vice versa.

The gardens on our school campus wrap around the buildings like a protective oasis and students play and learn in them throughout each school year and summer. We started this gardening program in 1997

Permaculture gardening is a way of designing the landscape to mimic that of nature in the hopes that culture and agriculture can strike a permanent and harmonious balance. Half of all of our garden space is perennial. There are over 30 fruit and nitrogen fixing trees on campus, beneficial herbs, flowers and bush fruits interspersed, in addition to the annual beds that grow an abundance of vegetables.

There are three main gardens on campus, each corresponding to a particular age level. They were designed this way for a number of reasons. One is proximity. We want the students at all times to have direct access to the world of the gardens and to feel a sense of belonging to them. Nature is their classroom.

Many of the activities that young gardeners participate in are all part of a great cycle called the “Seed to Table” cycle in which a seed travels from the soil, to the table and back to the soil again. The children will watch this life cycle unfold and actively participate in it. Almost any activity that we engage in – be it watering, cooking, planting, and observing life in the garden – is illustrated in the seed to table cycle. It applies to all grade levels and can range from the simplest activities to the most in depth discussions and practices.

Student-made signs

Student-made signs

Curriculum is based on seasonal cycles, the garden environment, and the age of the students. We invite spontaneity and often pause to watch and identify insects, marvel at life in the garden, and discuss questions or insights. In all levels we teach about soil, decomposition and compost, pollination and biodiversity. The depth and detail of these lessons varies, but these are core concepts that are important throughout the program.

Maria Montessori herself said: “How often is the soul of man – especially that of a child – deprived because one does not put him in contact with nature?” To discover one’s full potential, one must comprehend themselves as a part of the cosmos. It is difficult to know the richness of your own potential until you reach out and touch the soil that makes it possible. Nature and the gardens enrich lives, and help build whole children, who understand that to nurture the earth, is to nurture themselves, their friends, their neighbors, and the world.