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School And Home Gardens

( Originally Published 1915 )

Education is Living.-It used to be said that education is preparation for life, but Dr. Dewey and Dr. Hanus have made popular the idea that education is living. " The only preparation for life's duties, opportunities and privileges," says Dr. Hanus, " is participation in them so far as they can be rendered intelligible, interesting, and accessible to children and youth of school age; and hence the first duty of all education is to provide participation as fully and as freely as possible." We learn by doing and reflecting on what we have done. The only way a child will ever know plants is to grow plants. This may be begun in a little box in the window ledge, carried on in the hot-bed or school garden and then in the boy's breeding plot, after which one is ready to handle a home-project and then a field intelligently.

School Gardens Not New.—Europe has something over 100,000 school gardens. There are 20,000 in Austria alone. France, Sweden and other countries do not give State aid to a school that has no garden. In Canada, where the movement is of more recent origin, the little province of Nova Scotia has over 200. Ontario gives each school starting a garden $100, and an annual allowance. New Brunswick gives each school maintaining a school garden $30 each year. The Civic League of Boston maintains something over 250 gardens for children. Chicago, Philadelphia, and other cities have made a grand success of gardens for children.

Educational Value.—The educational value of school gardens is very great. The same intimate contact and real living knowledge cannot be gained from books on botany. Sound sense training comes from trying to select good seed, to keep the plants in a good growing condition, to detect insect and fungous diseases, etc. The reasoning required while learning which is the best soil and methods of fertilizing and cultivating it, or in trying to figure how to grow the largest plants or the largest number of plants on a given piece of ground, is hard to equal by the reasoning on anything found in books. Then, too, the garden work, if properly taught, gives children the desire to read books and bulletins, and the reading in turn may be made to give one inspiration and enthusiasm to try theories or experiences found in the books or bulletins. Then the happiness that comes from being able to eat the products of his own labor, and to offer products from his own garden to some needy friend or unfortunate neighbor, is no small part in a child's development. But a garden is most valuable, it seems to me, in teaching a child the value of property and a respect for the property rights of others.

Property and Education.—For a generation we have been trying to rear propertyless children and the condition has brought its revenge. Now we pay annually $2,000,000,000, to cope with crime most of which is committed by people under twenty years of age, 85 per cent of whom began criminal careers near the age of twelve years. Almost nowhere, except with the school garden, can we develop the sentiments and feelings that come from real, vital, first-hand ownership. It was ownership of property and the hope that the children would inherit the property of the parents that created the monogamous family and led the Aryan and Semitic races out of barbarism. "Probably the best way to teach selfishness is to try to teach unselfishness too early," says Hodge. " The passion for ownership is coextensive with life. It is as universal as hunger. Far from being antagonistic to unselfishness and altruism, the desire for ownership is their necessary forerunner, their normal preparation and embryonic phase, for no man can give until he possesses something worth giving."

Property as a character builder has been too long neglected. I find nowhere in our language an adequate treatment of this subject. Dr. E. A. Ross in his " Social Psychology" has the following:

" The protection and care of a piece of property makes for thoughtfulness and steadiness. One receipt for building character in a boy is to give him a plot and let him keep what he can raise on it; give him a colt and let him have its growth in value. This property so responsive to his care or to his neglect is a standing challenge to his self-control. It admonishes him to look ahead, to plan, to sacrifice, to overrule his impulses to idle, procrastinate, or day-dream. The city parent, having nothing of this sort he can make over to his boy, is puzzled how he shall make a man of him.

" A wide dissemination of land ownership has long been recorgnized as fostering a stable and conservative political habit. The magic of property turns sand into gold,' says Arthur Young. It also turns hinds into men. An industrial or mining population, unsteadied by ownership, is altogether more easily drawn into impulsive mass action than a proprietary farming population. The man owns his home, but in a sense his home owns him, checks his rash impulses, holding him out of the human whirlpool, ever saying inaudibly, ` Heed me, care for me, or you lose me ! ' With the growth of great corporation-held properties in which the individual has only a fractional ownership, property ceases to contribute much. . . Its role is probably on the wane."

Plants in the School-room.—No school should be without growing plants. A chalk box or terra cotta pots (Fig. 80) filled with soil may be of service for educational purposes. One teacher planted apple seeds in the chalk box and then for eight weeks the school studied the development of the apple plant. The little trees were taken home by the children and set out to grow until they were large enough to graft.

If the end is taken out of the chalk box and a glass is slid in where the lid was, the box may be filled with soil and beans, peas, etc., planted just inside the glass where the children may see each day what the seed is doing. This enables them to study roots and root hairs, the unfolding of the plumule, geotropism and heliotropism. No roots or root hairs will be visible unless a dark cover excludes light from penetrating the glass while the roots are growing. A larger box near the window may be a miniature garden or farm.

Only a little shriveled seed,
It might be grass or flower or weed;
Only a box of earth on the edge
Of a narrow, dusty window-ledge;
Only a few scant summer showers;
Only a few clear shining hours;
That was all. Yet God could make
Out of these, for a sick child's sake,
A blossom-wonder, as fair and sweet
As ever broke at an angel's feet.


The corn testing box should be in every school-room. Invite the children to bring samples of their home seeds to be planted side by side with their neighbors. The little corn plants will grow fifteen inches high in the sawdust bed. They offer such a splendid chance to study root hairs, and the appearance of chlorophyll. If some soil is put on the sawdust after the need for a seed tester is past we have a first-class place in which to sprout plants with which the children are not familiar, as pea-nuts, grapefruit seeds, orange seeds, lemon seeds, etc. Children will never know a cotton plant by reading of it in their geographies. They may plant cotton seeds in their box at school and then transplant them to the home garden and in that way get them to bear.

School Plantings.—As spring approaches some study should be given to plantings for beautifying the school grounds (Figs. 81, .82). This requires all the thought that teachers are able to put into the subject. There should be a selection of plants that will give harmony in colors. Outbuildings should be screened or covered with vines. Places where children do not need or care to play should be made to give pleasure by their beauty. Flower beds need not be in the middle of the yard or where the children play, but they should be somewhere on the school grounds. A fern bed may be planted on the north side of the building or in some partially shaded place. Remember the three rules for plantings, which say :

1. Avoid straight lines.
2. Plant in masses.
3. Keep the front places open.

The School Garden.—Says Hemingway, in his admirable little book entitled " How to Make a School Garden " : " Probably no two school gardens can be made exactly the same because of the different conditions of space and exposure and the difference in the surrounding conditions, all of which should be taken into consideration. In making the school garden, the aesthetic side should not be lost sight of, nor should it be the entire con-trolling element, but let the aesthetic and agricultural elements harmonize. If the grounds are small and the only space for a garden is along the fence, of course there is no choice, and if this is all there is it should be utilized; much good can be accomplished by working even in a small space."

Some teachers prefer a garden in common for the lower grades, especially the primary grades. It is well, as soon as the children are old enough, to allow them to own their own garden, even if it is so small that only one plant can grow in it. In that case, we may have a contest to see who can grow the nearest perfect plant. If the garden is large enough for individual beds they should be marked out and a good strong stake set at each corner of each child's bed. The stake should be well driven in and the beds should have ample space for walks between them. It takes from fifteen to eighteen inches for a walk wide enough to avoid trampling on each other's beds. The beds should be narrow enough so that the children can work and weed them by reaching in from each side. There should be no careless, slipshod work done in the garden, and the wholesome criticism of the other children should be brought to bear on the careless ones. A child should be taught to think of his garden as he should of his slate, as himself expressed—if slovenly, then the sign of a slovenly self ; if neat, then the sign of a neat self.

Plants for the School Garden.—The selection of plants for the school garden will depend upon the locality, the time of the school term, the facility for some care and supervision during the summer, etc. It would be well to select some flowers that will blossom before the summer vacation and some others that will bloom after school begins again in the fall. The former purpose would make some of the bulbs best, but they must be set the preceding fall. Some of the wild flowers should find a place in the school garden. They are very beautiful and partly through the ruthlessness of the school children they are rapidly disappearing. I know that it will be argued that some careless farmer will let his stock in and destroy the school flower beds and garden, but it is work well done if we get the children to have sufficient interest to desire to keep the fences up and the school grounds clean and beautiful.

It is well to transplant in the school garden such plants as tomatoes, melons, cabbages, etc., that may be taken home when school is out and replanted in the home garden where they may be carefully cared for and from which the child may expect some remuneration for his patience and labor. These plants, especially the melons, should be planted in halves of egg shells or in old strawberry boxes. This enables us to take them up and carry them home without seriously disturbing the roots. The work in the school garden should aim to teach each child how to grow at least one plant each year. That knowledge may be later applied in growing more than one plant at home.

The Purpose of a School Garden is a Good Home Garden.—If, as some claim, the relation of the children of today to the home garden is a " proverbially painful " one, and if this is due to lack of ownership and knowledge that enables one to do well at gardening, then it follows that, in so far as they can, it is the duty of teachers to overcome these obstacles by leading the children to feel the pleasure that comes from gardening where there is spontanous and creative interest. As was explained in the chapter on Seed Selection and Plant Breeding, good home gar-dens are very necessary to lighten the burdens of the women on our farms. It is a well-known fact that meat is an expensive kind of food, and recent tests lead us to believe that one can do as much and better work on a vegetable diet. But the human system demands variety; hence the health, happiness and efficiency of every family depend upon their being able to draw from a good fruit and vegetable garden. If what we do modifies us more than what is done for us, then the growing of beautiful flowers is necessary to the development of beautiful character.

How to Create Interest in the Home Garden.—In school, children should learn to know plants and how to grow them. Having this as a basis, the teacher may start the work in the home garden by having the children make a chart of the fruit and vegetables which they have to use at home during the year. Each pupil should make a chart and there may be a little contest to see who can get his nearest right. These charts will enable some children to see that other families enjoy fruit and vegetables twice as many months as they do. The following chart represents what we may have at our home in the northern states any good garden year.

Some General Principles.—Children should be taught that there is a difference between the town man's and the country-man's garden. The town man has more time to tend a little garden and his must be largely hand work. The farmer has more than enough hand work to do, therefore his garden should be so made as to admit of horse cultivation. That means that while the town man may have a little square patch for a garden, the farmer should have his garden in long rows, and while the town man may have short rows close together, the farmer can to better advantage have longer rows and wider apart. The fruit patch should be where the chickens may run in it for part of the winter. It is a good plan to disk the garden in the fall and again early in the spring and then let the chickens in to pick up the insects and weed seeds. Trash, weeds, limbs trimmed from the trees, leaves, etc., should be burned on the garden patch. The burning destroys insects and the ashes add valuable fertilizer. The strawberry bed should be where it may be mowed and burned off after each crop is gathered.

The taller plants, as corn, should be placed to the north unless they are wanted for screens for buildings or unsightly places or unless there be members of the shade-loving species which may be planted north of the corn. The rows should run north and south so as to give equal sun to all sides. Plants should be so arranged that late crops may follow earlier ones. Since plants secrete toxins or poisons for others of their kind, the same vegetables should not be planted in the same place year after year. Peas and beans grow best where the soil is inoculated with the bacteria which will form tubercles on their roots.

These principles show us that the mapping out of what plants to grow on a given piece of ground is a very complex problem demanding the best thought that can be brought to the subject. It is at all times conceivable how a better brain might make a better and more profitable garden on any given piece of land. On the opposite page (from Seymour's " Garden Profits ") is given the map of the garden of a boy who made $70 on half an acre.

Should School Gardens Survive?—There seems to be uneasiness in some quarters as to the survival of the school garden. Whether or not the school garden should survive depends upon what kind of a school garden it is. If the school garden is little more than a patch for the children to enjoy and an extra burden on the janitor, it should not survive. If the school garden is a plot with beautiful flowers grown by an unwilling janitor but flowers for which the school and especially the children get credit, the school garden should not survive. If the school garden is in the country and is a place where the children learn poorly what they would learn better by visiting a regular gardener's place, then the garden should be abandoned. If the garden is in the country and prevents the children taking an active part in the home garden or, worse yet, from becoming active members of their state or the national boys' or girls' clubs, and there doing things on a larger and more scientific scale, then of course the school garden should not survive. But if the school garden is a place in town, kept by the children with no extra burdens on unwilling people, and if it furnishes an out-of-door laboratory then it should survive and become an organic part of the school.

School gardens in town seem to be more popular than school gardens in the country and for a very good reason. In the country, children are very apt to learn incidentally all that the ordinary teacher can teach in a school garden. The growing of a radish to eat or of a dozen radishes to eat is not worth while for the country child because double the number can be grown at home with half the work. A little patch of corn doomed to partial failure because of the limited chance for cross pollination is of course worse than useless in the country where a boy may take charge of an acre or more providing he wants to.

But there is a very promising field for the rural school gar-den, though as yet there are few if any entering that field. That field is the field of plant breeding. Supposing, instead of pulling up the first and best appearing radish, it is marked with a little stake and left to go to seed. Supposing this seed from the earliest and best radishes is multiplied until there is a sufficient quantity to make it worth while and then is distributed to the different families represented in the school, this makes a community interested in the school garden and it makes the work worth while for the country children.

Suppose again that the teacher gets permission and goes with the interested pupils into a nearby potato field in September and there marks the hills with the most vigorous and blight-resistant tops, and suppose she follows this up at seeding time and has the hills forked out and saves seed from hills with six or more good-sized and good-shaped potatoes in each. Suppose she plants these in the school garden, has them well cared for and then distributes seed from all but those hills that she needs for the next year, this is worth while and makes the school garden a place of perennial interest. Or again, suppose she selects the best heads from blight- and rust-resistant plants in the wheat or oat field and multiplies them in the school garden, this may make the garden well worth while. She may have the pupils in one grade breed radishes, in another grade lettuce, in another grade some other garden vegetable and then the boys in the upper grades breed the grains while the girls breed flowers or take a hand in breeding an improved garden vegetable from the demands of the kitchen for better flavor, more nutrition or more attractive appearance. There is danger of untrained teachers, in their enthusiasm for something new, wasting much time and deadening interest in scientific agriculture by doing things that are not worth doing. Of course there is great need that the rural school help give the country child his racial heritage. There is a demand that the country child be made conscious of and be given tact and skill in handling or applying laws and principles, but these may be taught to the child who spends most of his time on the farm, without the means of the school garden. The laws of averages, of variation, of mutation, of the survival of the fittest, of natural selection, of capillarity, of conservation of soil moisture, of like tends to beget like, and others are a part of the child's racial heritage which he should be given so far as he can assimilate them so that they may become the basis for his reasoning in later life. Now, if the school garden helps to make these clear, in so far it should survive as a school device for teaching.

But I believe that in plant breeding is to be found the great function of the school garden in the country. We are far behind Europe in plant breeding and correspondingly behind in average yields.

The School Gardens and New Crops.—The school garden is a good place to introduce new crops which the farmers are not growing but which they could grow to advantage. This is nicely illustrated by soy beans, cowpeas or alfalfa. In many places we find the farmers have tried to grow alfalfa, and have made three failures out of five attempts. This has discouraged them. It is necessary for the school to have patches planted the right way and the wrong way to illustrate the cause of the failures and the successes. Along with the work in the school garden, the teacher may teach the alfalfa " Don'ts " and the alfalfa poem, the reasons for growing alfalfa, and the five things necessary to grow alfalfa called the Five Alfalfa Secrets. A booklet may well be made on how and why grow alfalfa.

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