Since autumn 2022, more than 270 schoolchildren in France have been gathering once a week in nature with their teachers and a gardening professional. From one session to the next, a series of experts – a gardener, a market gardener, a horticulturist, etc. – share the principles of permaculture, helping pupils create, develop and cultivate a garden plot over the course of the school year. This year, eleven classes in four partner boards of education (Besançon, Bordeaux, Créteil and Paris) are participating in the Foundation’s Manuterra programme.
This educational programme seeks to raise awareness among the younger generation – the citizens of tomorrow – on the richness of our ecosystems, through in situ introductions to horticultural and agricultural practices and permaculture techniques. In school gardens, nearby squares or large public parks, the pupils – some of whom have little access to green spaces – are invited to get their hands dirty, to handle specific tools and to familiarise themselves with nature. To ensure the programme’s success, the Foundation has partnered with the Saline Royale d’Arc-et-Senans, the ALAIJE (Association des Lieux d'Accueils pour l’Insertion par le Jardin et l’Environnement) in Dordogne, and the Parc de La Villette in Paris.
In the course of twelve sessions spread over the four seasons, pupils benefit from the skills and knowledge of a garden professional, with the help of a mediator and their class teacher. Together, they engage with a variety of environmental themes that can also enrich their classroom work in exciting and unexpected ways. By learning about biodiversity through a unique, collective outdoor experience, the pupils are encouraged to take care of the living world and to adopt sustainable practices. At the end of the year, they pass on their garden plots to a new class, which will in turn tend to them from the start of the next school year.