Senior infants Nina Lalor, Alhyzia Montenegro, Millie O’Higgins and Evie Burchell as they received their GIY GROW At School pack at St John of God National School. Photo: Mary Browne

Vegetables are the new homework

This week, as part of the GROW at School programme, 132 schools across the country went outside to plant the first crops from their garden kit.

Teachers declared that they found the garden to be an excellent teaching tool across most subjects of the curriculum and that it also allowed them to get closer to the pupils and learn more about them in an informal setting

Earlier this year Grow It Yourself (GIY) launched a €3.2m fund to support GROW At School, with an ambition to see every primary school in Ireland granted a free garden, seeds and the resources required for learning how to grow food, reconnect with nature, and develop healthier, more sustainable food choices.

Founder of GIY Michael Kelly said: “We are delighted to officially begin GROW At School. This has long been an ambition for GIY and we are excited to be at this stage. Through this programme, we will enable 20,000 primary school children to learn about food growing this year. Getting their hands into the soil will be an invaluable learning experience.

“We are calling on anyone with the means to support this programme to consider giving the unique gift of a school garden this Christmas season. This could be individuals, companies, foundations or even members of a school community. Every €2,000 sponsors a full school garden and access to the GROW At School programme for a school on the waiting list, while smaller amounts will support additional materials, educational content and a teacher training programme.”

Having run as a 3 year pilot with 31 schools, the programme was outlined as a huge success. Children experienced better overall wellbeing and interest in eating more vegetables, outcomes that have been found in numerous other studies on the topic.

This week in the St John of God’s National School in Waterford city, the students along with those at 132 primary schools nationwide got started on their food growing kits which include 4 raised beds with soil, 14 different vegetables to grow, a plan that works around the school year, and lesson plans adapted for all age groups.

Michael added: “It is our goal to have at least 500 schools across the country participate during the 2023/24 school year. We already have 250 schools on this wait list (registration is open and ongoing at So, the interest is there, and we just need the financial support to back it.”