What Works Steam, Jan. 18, 2016.
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Schools encouraged to learn more about successful urban gardening initiatives

Helping Dubai schools to learn from each other, the latest edition of What Works held on January 18, 2016, focused on gardening in schools as a tool to improve student learning. More than 25% of Dubai’s private schools grow food, according to new statistics released by Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) on Monday.

Inspiring schools to take-up the challenge of growing their own food, Stephen Ritz, an expert on urban gardening talked to students and teachers at the What Works event hosted by KHDA.

“Children should not have to leave their neighbourhood to live, learn and earn in a better way. In the back of my classroom, something is always growing. In order to be well read, you have to be well fed and we all need to grow healthier schools,” says Stephen.

Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables or express a preference for these foods according to research. Gardening has also been linked with greater student achievement in science.

A special workshop on urban gardening hosted at the What Works helped teachers learn more about growing their own garden in small spaces.

Stephen shared his journey from being an ordinary schoolteacher to an advocate for healthier schools as he said, “It all started with seeds which transformed into farms. We ended up creating the first edible wall in New York City with the help of school students and people started taking notice. When students changed ordinary classrooms into green spaces, there was no looking back.”

Gardening programs have been considered particularly effective at engaging ‘non-academic learners’ and children with challenging behaviours.

Mouza Al-Suwaidi, Chief of Engagement at KHDA encouraged educators to learn from each other as she said, “Many schools in Dubai have already created their own green space and started growing fruits and vegetables successfully inside school farms. It is inspiring to see passionate teachers sending a positive message to students and parents. Many of these learners are seeing food grow right in front of them for the first time.”

Students who participated in a one-year gardening program showed a significant increase in self-understanding and the ability to work in groups compared to nonparticipating students. What Works SteAm (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) also showcased successful student projects.

The What Works movement of sharing positive practice in Dubai’s schools continued with What Works SteAm, which took place 18 January, 2016. This event was for all teachers who are integrating art and design into a number of school subjects – and motivating students to see old ideas in new ways.

To date, more than 15,000 teachers and principals have attended 20 What Works events over three years.

How gardening initiatives are implemented in Dubai schools:

Depending on the school, gardening initiatives are either extra-curricular programs or fully integrated with the curriculum through science and entrepreneurship. Many initiatives are student-led in Dubai schools. Gardening initiatives involve students of all school grades (KG-12).

Dubai schools that have urban gardening projects

1          GEMS Our Own Indian School (Al Quoz)

2          GEMS Our Own English High School (Al Warqa)

3          DESS

4          Horizon International School

5          Ranches Primary

6          Oxford School

7          GEMS Metropole

9          Dubai Modern Education School

10        DIA

11        Arab Unity School / Primary

13        Cambridge International School

14        Little Flowers

15        Kings Dubai

16        Gulf Indian High School

17        Al Salam

18        Apple International

19        ASD

20        Philadelphia

21        Al Mawaqeb

23        Pristine Private School

24        Buds

25        Al Sadiq School

26        GEMS WSO

27        Al Shourq

28        GEMS International School Al Khail

29        Al Diyafah

30        Sharjah American International School

31        The Private Religious Institute

32        American Academy Al Mihzar

33       Towheed Iranian School

34       The Central School Of Dubai

35        Ambassador KG

36       French School

37        DESC

38        School Of Modern Skills

Schools that are interested to start urban gardening projects or that have just started    

39       Raffles World Academy

40        GEMS new millennium

41        The Indian High School

42        GEMS Metropole

43       The School of Research Science

44       Al Maaref

45        Dubai British School Jumeirah Park


- KHDA Media