LEARNING THROUGH GARDENING: THE HORTIS EXPERIENCE

F. Magrefi1, F. Orsini2, G. Bazzocchi3, G. Gianquinto2

1Amitiè s.r.l. (ITALY)
2DipSA - University of Bologna (ITALY)
3Horticity s.r.l. (ITALY)
Urban gardens have many different and important functions in the actual society: from the food production to social, educational and therapeutic functions. Urban horticulture was extensively practiced during the ’70 and ’80 and, a after a period of shade in the ’90, has came back into favor recently, when a large group of urban population is experiencing precarious income and underfeeding, as a form of self food production. Social and therapeutic functions of urban horticulture are nowadays widely recognized and used, in particular for the support and rehabilitation of disadvantaged persons. On the other side, the educational role of horticulture is recognized from 2002 by the FAO School Garden concept note, that stated the importance of school gardens to increase “the relevance and quality of education through active learning”.

The European project HORTIS – funded by the European Union in the framework of the Lifelong Learning Programme – Grundtvig sub-programme - groups together experiences of urban community gardens all over Europe for the implementation of innovative training tools (web based and audiovisuals) to foster the acquisition of key competences for lifelong learning.

In the present work, the main outcomes of HORTIS will be illustrated, with the main aim of providing an inter-disciplinary approach to strengthen the role of urban horticulture in the adult learning, especially with the aim to increase the life quality of unemployed or jobless adults and to explore the relationship between community gardening and key competences acquisition. In particular the positive effects of practical urban gardening activities will be illustrated especially in enhancing social cohesion and mutual help, in increasing the sense of belonging to the community and self-esteem, thus encouraging acquisition of transversal key competences.

The innovative character of the HORTIS approach lies in its focus on gardening activities, supported by a specific teaching methodology and a set of high-quality educational materials, that combine self-food production techniques with informal teaching approaches aimed at the acquisition of new skills, and especially transversal key competences such as: learning to learn, spirit of entrepreneurship and civil and social competences.