It was the end of a long day that had started at 4 am, continued with faulty GPS communication, a resulting missed cab and sizable bribe of a nearby shuttle company, and miraculous arrival at the airport 28 minutes before scheduled departure time. After breaking cue and relinquishing my son’s souvenir finger cuffs at security, we felt we’d experienced a sequence fit for a cheesy made-for-t.v. movie.
More than 12 hours after the grueling start, I was unwilling to forgo our final tour of the day, a visit to the Willunga Waldorf School garden. Allegiance to my travel weary family forced me to inform our consummate host, Jeff Simmons, a parent and gardener at the school, that we’d have to keep it inside of 10 minutes.
Nearly ninety minutes later, I was still gaping at the gardens, which were far more expansive than any school gardens I had seen before. Ten minutes would have been woefully insufficient.
At this Steiner (Waldorf) school, growing things is integral to the curriculum, from kindergarten where the focus is on sensory immersion – bright colors, beautiful scents, and rich textures, to Class 3, where students focus on gardening and farming, growing grains like wheat and rye.
The gardens are all maintained organically and biodynamically, and feature a variety of permaculture principles. Companions such as garlic and marigolds are planted to deter pests and promote plant health. Many different crops and varieties are grown here, providing a rich and extensive outdoor living laboratory.
The school employs three (part-time) gardeners through a creative tuition exchange, so the kids don’t have to do all the work. But there are some of the same challenges you’d find in any school garden. Like precious shrubs that have been lovingly converted by young hands into forts. The garden staff have addressed this issue with creativity, allowing it in one area and creating an additional fort-building area with loose detached limbs in another. Archways have been installed in certain areas to encourage kids to look up – and therefore slow down -when entering a garden space.
One thing is clear. With a focus on the garden, both for beauty and for learning, the sky’s the limit.