Growing preschool gardens

What are crisps made of? How do you grow potatoes? And why do worms creep into the ground? Preschool children at Gethagen's preschool in Jönköping probably have a better idea than many adults. They are part of a large project for the development of ecosystem services in pre-school environments.

Gethagens preschool is one of ten preschools participating in a three-year project to develop the outdoor environments of Jönköping county’s preschools. The focus of the project is on preschool gardens that are being evaluated by ecosystem services consultants.

This development work is being closely followed by six researchers from Jönköping University. The interdisciplinary research group includes Per Askerlund, Tobias Samuelsson, Ellen Almers, Robert Lecusay and Mikael Gustafsson from the School of Education and Communication, and Sofia Kjellström from the School of Health and Welfare.

Despite growing evidence of the educational and health benefits of intergenerational participation in community urban agriculture, few children have access to school gardens and ecosystem services. As part of the project, teachers at selected preschools were invited to participate in ecosystem services workshops, with the aim of encouraging them to implement their ecosystems plans at their own schools. Gethagens preschool created a forest garden as a children’s play space. They also planted a small vegetable garden and a willow hut for shade and ‘alone time’.

Jönköping University’s researchers are investigating how children, staff and community stakeholders develop and use ecosystem services during and after the redevelopment, with particular focus on issues concerning children’s experiences in preschool outdoor areas, and the the affordances for play and learning of these areas.

Study results will be presented at an autumn research conference and an outdoor education conference that will be held at Elmia, August 2019.