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Training the Trainers: School Gardens and Production skills in El Salvador

HUertos Escolares

The goal of this graduate course offered by Zamorano is to create opportunities and provide training to directors and faculty by  instilling conceptual competencies.  The School Garden model helps build new knowledge and provides an opportunity for research using innovative tools, methodologies and variable environments.

In this virtual development training course, “School Gardening and Productive Competencies”, Zamorano employs its flagship Learn-By-Doing approach to teacher training.  The program was initiated  by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry (MINEDUCYT) of El Salvador, with support from the Directors of National Prevention and Social Programs.  It is part of El Salvador’s School Nutrition and Health Program, with support from the National Institute for Teacher Training (INFOD). This training will enroll more than 2,000 participants and will benefit a total of 500 school centers.

The course seeks to equip participants with the tools they need to analyze, create and maintain school gardens.  It focuses on strategies for modeling healthy nutrition.  The gardens are a resource for teacher training, at the end of which it is expected that participants understand and embrace the importance and benefits of establishing a student or family vegetable garden.  Most importantly, it is expected that participants will have acquired the basic knowledge to train teachers in how to be effective instructors for building vegetable crop gardens in their educational centers and homes.

Santiago Flores, Prevention and Social Programs National Director in El Salvador, maintains that as long as they work with the educational community, programs will continue to be successful. “The process we are launching works with a multimodal system. It is an opportunity to reach more teachers thanks to the technological tools that facilitate engaging a larger population. Gardening is an educational and didactic instrument that not only favors specific competencies but also reinforces more basic core subjects.  It lends itself to working inclusively, emphasizing prevention and coexistence by modeling working with peers and with families,” he added.

According to Karla Hannia de Varela, El Salvador’s Education Minister, “It is necessary to teach students and families. Give them tools and knowledge so they can grow their own food in a sustainable way. Teachers, you will receive a variety of skills that will facilitate bringing these tools to the students and their families”.

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Isaac Ferrera, Zamorano´s Institutional Development Director, shared that the University is proudly contributing to the development of this important program for El Salvador. “We see the School Gardens Program as a model. It is a program that is revolutionizing the way that knowledge about agriculture is being shared with children, and we are hoping it has the impact of better socioeconomic development and that it can be the seed that accelerates the country´s progress”, he added.

Ing. Julio Lopez, Zamorano faculty member, expressed, “The School Garden has standards that we all must agree upon since  its objective is to grow fresh and healthy food for the children. Crops are grown in areas where oftentimes there is almost no water available, very little soil and minimal access to technology and supplies. The Gardens are managed by the children with tutoring and guidance from their teachers.  Like you, they also have  the assistance of some technicians and institutions that cooperate with the educational sector”.

He shared that the School Garden serves as a tool to promote the practical theoretical production model of educational training.  It allows teachers to use the learning by doing model as part of their curriculum.  This practical program makes it possible to produce during all 12 months of the year.  In addition, the curriculum can be adjusted  so that the teacher can deliver instruction for a rural setting or an urban setting, which means that, with the properly selected crops, the Gardens can be a source of food in both settings all year long.

The training includes four modules: 1) agro-ecological production, 2) nutritional and food training, 3) the garden as a didactic resource and 4) references for  prevention. As an institution committed to contributing to societal needs, Zamorano proudly offers this program that helps build the purposeful education available to teachers and their students across Latin America.

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