H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak sponsors School’s Garden Project

WAM ABU DHABI, 22nd September, 2013 (WAM) — A novel educational programme which utilises schools’ gardens and green-houses has been launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations office in Abu Dhabi.

The project is sponsored and patronised by H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Extraordinary Ambassador of the UN FAO. The pilot stage is being implemented in collaboration with the General Women’s Union and ADEC.

The major aim of this programme is to improve the nutrition of school age children through garden based learning, by implementing lessons on nutrition and food security through school garden activities involving teachers, students and their families. Initially, three schools in Abu Dhabi are being engaged.

FAO experts installed a greenhouse at the Al Soqour School, Abu Dhabi, and two micro gardens in Al Dhibyaniya and Reem schools. H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak has expressed her interest in expanding this garden-based learning model to a national scale as well as possibly to other countries in the Near East and North Africa.

Teaching is being delivered by specially trained teachers for grade-6 students. The FAO undertakes this training via workshops. The themes of the knowledge programme include the promotion of healthy diets, food production, sciences, and environmental issues.

It is recognised that obesity in childhood has reached disconcerting proportions in the UAE and some other Gulf States. Overeating, infrequent exercise, and the resulting extra body-weight are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and other medical conditions which can seriously threaten health. Educational approaches elsewhere have demonstrated that children and young people can avoid these difficulties especially if they are provided with suitable knowledge and encouragement.

The schools’ gardening programme is integrated into a mixed curriculum which includes science, horticulture, environmental studies, and human nutrition. Recognising that “children learn better by doing”, the programme demonstrates the preparation of seed beds, the nurturing of seedlings, and the production of fruits and vegetables. Pupils can gain valuable experience from using the nutritious produce in kitchens, caring for the environment, and healthily exercising their bodies due to activities associated with gardening. The FAO wishes to create a positive social impact for not only the children, but also their families, the community, and the school itself.

WAM/MZ/CM

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