Learning with nature in your own school garden

As soon as you arrive at the Rudolf Steiner School in Mbagathi all the traffic noise from the suburbs of Nairobi is left behind. You enter a safe space, surrounded by trees and hedges planted many years ago. You hear birds singing and make your way along a giant football field, where the dairy cows graze between the children playing football.

This scene was not always like this. When the school started in 1989, it faced a great many economic, social and environmental challenges. The farm is still the heart and center of the school. Its hard, black cotton soils have been cultivated organically from the start. In 2016 they converted to biodynamic practices. Composting, making and applying preparations, integrating trees and shrubs, and closing nutrient cycles are central elements of the production. In this way the soil is managed so that it produces most of the food for the children. 4.5 ha of the total of 8 ha of the school grounds are used for the production of maize, milk from the cows and vegetables such as beans, potatoes, spinach and carrots.

Besides self-sufficiency and the production of food for the 340 children, education is also an essential aspect of the farm. All the children have lessons in gardening and agriculture at the farm, from kindergarten up to the 9th grade. They learn about the value of food and how to grow it without using pesticides or agrochemicals. When they leave school, most of them continue to grow their own vegetables at home as Rose Ingala, the gardening teacher, explains. The farm is not only a centre of learning for the children, but also for teachers and other farmers. When the children have school holidays, the farm is used for training in biodynamic agriculture and Waldorf education for teachers and farmers from all over Africa. This enables the cycle of production, consumption and recycling the leftovers on site to be maintained.

80% of the children come from homes with economically disadvantaged families, where poverty affects many aspects of their lives. Here, the children learn, experience and feel the importance of food production and consumption. At the same time, this place helps them to heal from their troubled family stories. It makes them strong and healthy to face their bright futures. In the school, not only vegetable production, trees, shrubs and cows are used in an integrative way, but the school produces what is needed to heal the children. “Natural medicine”, as Mercy Njoki calls the food for the children.

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  • Goetheanum, Sektion for Landwirtschaft