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Al Sadiq Islamic English School gave themselves to the enjoyment of gardening over five years ago, in 2013.

The journey with plants began with a small patch of grassland and the school has since worked its way up to a greenhouse. In this featured article, we explore the benefits Al Sadiq Islamic school has reaped from their gardening programme.

At Al Sadiq, gardening provides a dynamic environment to the students in which they observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. While it’s a wonderful way to teach young minds environmental stewardship, gardening itself provides an inexorable atmosphere for students to catch on to the 21st-century learning skills. Furthermore, getting to experience the art firsthand, builds curiosity in new areas and creates awareness of the importance of farming. It thus helps to extend the boundaries and scope of the formal educational system by encouraging creativity and improving student’s awareness to take constructive action for a sustainable living environment.

The roots of gardening in Al Sadiq began with the first get together of students from the 10th and 11th grade, under the supervision of the science teachers, to plant various seeds with the promise of an effective organic garden in the future. Since then, the roots have never ceased innovating and seizing new ideas to implement. Organic gardening has brought an abundance of harvests of plants ranging from; cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, capsicums to a variety of herbs. All thanks to the Project in-charge, Mrs Shaniba Riyas, and the principal Mr Tajammul A Mirza

Vertical gardening, for its quality of taking up less space and creating an effervescent environment, filled with greenery even in the most confined and challenging places, was created to not only influence the students to have a green thumb but also their parents. Moreover, a remarkable success has been the hydroponics, which is known for being erratic and inauspicious, for continual plant growth in school environments, due to its features of growing plants without soil but water, which is a very sensitive process. Al Sadiq has been very successful with using hydroponics, where to date, over five harvests of various plants grown in the hydroponics have been reaped. The task of planting and harvesting was undertaken by the students ranging from KG1 to 11th grade under the supervision of teachers. The harvested fruits and vegetables were sold to parents and teachers during gatherings such as the parents’ meetings in collaboration with the Commerce Department to allow the students, to also polish their entrepreneurial skills.

Al Sadiq Islamic English School’s diligence towards gardening has not gone unnoticed by the Dubai Municipality, who awarded Al Sadiq Organic Garden with the title of Best innovative approach in gardening, during the Grow Your Food campaign. Additionally, Ms Greta Ferloni, the manager, at Wellbeing Initiative at KHDA had visited and appreciated the Al Sadiq Garden. A visit to KHDA with the harvest from organic and hydroponic garden was also well received.

The road to gardening does not end here for Al Sadiq, as this year they have taken an inspiring pledge to extend their gardening to a greenhouse, which is an improvement for the gardening initiative at Al Sadiq. The greenhouse is an opportunity to extend the fruit production and plant growth, without giving precedence to the harsh climate of the UAE. The size, location, material, and climate control, were the four specifications considered while planning the greenhouse. Perhaps the most crucial consideration was the ability to control the temperature at all times, for which an automatic temperature control system was installed.

The greenhouse was brought to life with various distinctive plants on the 19th of November 2017. The leaders of the Gardening Club; Lavina Chowdhury, Saamiya Naushad, Huda Alam and Mancy Airmen, were given the responsibility of being the first to learn how to plant the seeds, through the demonstrations provided, and then to extend the knowledge acquired to other students, and in the process, to develop great leadership qualities along with gardening. Through constant care and observation by the students, it was only a matter of a few months before most of the plants were grown. So far there have been countless numbers of harvests, with over six hundred and twenty kilograms of cucumbers, produced by the students of; foundation, Primary and secondary stage, proof of the accelerating happiness and plant growth resulting from the greenhouse.

One of the loveliest things about the greenhouse, one that Al Sadiq truly adores, is how the greenhouse is becoming a learning hub for students throughout the school. The primary students are brought for subjects such as Math, which requires counting the plants, while the other grades are brought for other subjects. Throughout all this, gardening has impacted students with some essential skills necessary for a balanced lifestyle, such as; initiative taking, problem-solving, communicating, team building and entrepreneurial skills.

Hands on experience was enhanced through learning by doing. Students observe, analyze and evaluate how the greenhouse works and then describe the process of plant growth, as well as how the harvest is being utilized. As an extension activity, an advertisement was made by grade 10 students for HEALTHY BREAKFAST SALE, held during the break time as an awareness to help students to develop healthy eating habits.

There has been an immense number of steps already taken by Al Sadiq regarding gardening. The most paramount of them is the establishment of Solar power in the hydroponics so that we are not only focusing on gardening but also conserving energy. Moreover, Al Sadiq plans to challenge themselves in the aspect of growing as many different varieties of plants as they can –flowers, vegetables and fruits, you name it. Besides these, all the bare spaces found within the school boundaries are to be filled with plants.

Protecting our environment should be a priority ubiquitous, and gardening is the best way to raise environmental awareness to the students and the community, thus contributing to the UAE vision on a happy and sustainable city. Throughout the years of gardening, Al Sadiq has been able to make the students, teachers and parents aware of not only the harmful effects of chemical pesticides and fertilizers but also the importance of being eco-friendly. The team has been collaborating with Al Wahda Private School Sharjah of Athena Education and wishes to expand their circle and reach out to a greater mass to help work together towards the UAE’s 2021 vision of becoming an increasingly environmentally friendly country.