Gardens offer important characteristics worthy of consideration for teaching: they are outdoors (and very hard to fall asleep in), they are rich in visual, tactile, olefactory and kinethetic opportunities, and they require attention. There is no passivity in taking responsibility for a garden. Teaching outdoors is nothing particularly new, but we know it is rarely employed, rarely fully supported by teaching tools (outdoor smart boards anyone?), and rarely manageable: how do teachers take responsibility for, set-up and utilize such a space? Yet, consider the following image of a classroom I encountered in Agadez, Niger in 2007:
Despite the lack of resources, students are engaged with the teachers and with each other, and there's no drowsiness. A board, some shade, some tablets...it doesn't take much.
A garden begins to offer some of the primal emotive qualities the traditional neutral classroom lacks. It requires design thinking, and also offers a curriculum (botany, biology, general science, culinary arts), a lesson in responsibility and discipline, and the possibility of a kinesthetic experience that might appeal to many students disenfranchised by gym and by sports. For schools seeking additional income streams, it also offers a public venue that will ennoble any number of private rituals, from bar mitzvahs to weddings. Here is one example of a teaching garden: