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Plant Academy

location_on Jyväskylä, Finland

Environmental and entrepreneurial education through gardening

Plant Academy is a model for environmental and entrepreneurial education. Learning occurs in and through a greenhouse. This innovation illustrates a seasonal program for the whole year that allows anyone to implement the initiative to their school, in a small or large scale.

Finland 100

Overview

HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100

2014

Established

-

Children/users

1

Countries
Updated
November 22nd, 2022
Lessons from the Plant Academy can be implemented into every school that allows students to get their hands dirty and start growing things.
- Sanna Penttinen, teacher

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Today, people are removed from nature and students learn about plant and animal care from books. Plant Academy brings animal and plant care to the students. They get a chance to care for plants including different herbs and flowers and even a few animals.

Plant Academy is a model centering around a greenhouse combining school life, environmental education and entrepreneurial education. The ultimate goal is to guide students towards a sustainable lifestyle – everyone forms the environment of tomorrow with the choices they make today. Plant Academy also helps students to recognize their own strengths.

Plant Academy is designed for the seasonal cycle in the northern hemisphere and the Finnish school year. Fall is a time for harvest, clearing the area and preparing for the holiday school sale. After the New Year you should plant spring crops and prepare the soil for transplants. Students can sell the seedlings they nurture in the spring.

Students grow and nurture the plants in the greenhouse. They also develop entrepreneurial skills as they market and sell their seedlings and plants to the locals. Plant Academy aligns perfectly with the reformed Finnish national core curriculum – students participate and take responsibility in a common project. Students gain a broad, hands-on education completing various tasks in the greenhouse.

Plant Academy was implemented in the fall of 2013 at the Mankola comprehensive school. At the time, the school was being founded on a site of an agricultural college. The greenhouse was last used in the 1990s. Plant Academy grew rapidly from these humble beginnings.

The Mankola comprehensive school includes much more than a greenhouse. It has a room dedicated to laboratory work and crafts for 15 students, a nature museum complete with various stuffed animals and rock samples as well as cages for budgies and finches. The greenhouse is 120 m² and most of the area is dedicated to a winter garden. The head of the greenhouse is for transplanting.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability

Innovativeness

Combining entrepreneurial and environmental education in a fascinating way.

Impact

Students learn to take responsibility for plant care and gain plenty of working life skills for the future.

Scalability

The innovation can be implemented in the scale desired. The school year must be planned taking plant care into consideration.

Steps

August
You should engage students in greenhouse activities because the birds and fish tank require daily care. One method is to arrange activity lessons in the middle of the school day. This allows students to participate in the program during school hours.

You should also assign a teacher in charge of the greenhouse. The teacher is responsible for implementing the greenhouse plan. If you want to include animals in your greenhouse, they must be cared for daily. This has not been included in our yearly model.

The curriculum at Mankola is designed around the greenhouse. A half-an-hour recess divides the day in two. It allows students to care for animals and plants at the greenhouse and do tasks connected to the season.

Tasks in August:

  • Planting the last of the herbs
  • Mowing the field and raking the leaves
  • Washing pots
  • Organizing the greenhouse
  • Harvesting the garden
  • Drying and bagging herbs
  • Documenting the activities (videos, writings, interviews etc.)
  • Planning the harvest
  • Starting an environment club – the teacher in charge runs a club where students commit to care for the plants and animals during the school day, for example during recess
September
September is a harvest month.

Tasks in September:

  • Harvesting the garden, for example the pumpkins planted in the spring
  • Moving the compost heap from one frame to another
  • Washing down the transplanting area with a power washer
  • Maintenance
  • Collecting holiday craft material
  • Integrating the harvest into different subjects (e.g. home economics, biology)
October
October is a quieter month. It's a time for fall crafts or planning the planting of next year's crops.
November
November is also a slow month compared to the spring. You can use this time to prepare holiday crafts for the holiday sale.

Holiday sale idea: recycled wreath

Pick your material, for example pine cones or sticks. Students gather the materials and make a base out of chicken wire and newspaper, for example. They glue the materials into the base and add finishing touches to the wreath.

December
In December, you should organize the holiday sale. The proceeds can go to aid the greenhouse project. Students learn the basics of marketing, sales and accounting. You can include coffee and baked goods as well as a sales booth to the sale.
January
In January, you should plan spring planting and order the seeds. Hear students' requests. What was especially popular the previous year?
February
In February you should plant and prepare the soil. Start seeds indoors.

 

 

March
March is a time for caring for the transplants and potting them.

Note that the seedlings look alike so it's important to label them clearly.

April
In April you should plan the garden and start seeds indoor if they are headed for outdoor grow boxes.

After the ground warms up, the transplants should be planted into the boxes. You should install a net around the box to protect the transplants from animals. Set a watering and weeding schedule for the students. In time you'll get to enjoy the first crop.

May
In May, you should plan and host a spring transplant sale.

You should plan your marketing campaign and signs, organize evening shifts as well as the accounting. This is an excellent opportunity for students to practice their sales skills.

You should also organize garden and greenhouse clean-up as well as mow and rake the field.

June and July
The school should plan care for the plants and animals during the summer.

At Mankola, a team of sustainable gastronomy students from JAMK University of Applied Sciences is responsible for plant care over the summer. The teachers leading the program care for the birds. Remember that including animals to the innovation is entirely up to you.

Spread of the innovation

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