As featured in AEON Magazine
Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming originally developed by Rudolf Steiner employing what proponents describe as “a holistic understanding of agricultural processes”. One of the first sustainable agricultural movements, it treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasising spiritual, cosmological and mystical perspectives.
Underpinning the subject at Glenaeon is an attitude of respect for nature’s workings and cycles, eschewing the use of synthetic chemicals to either enhance or destroy any aspect of the garden.
2018 has seen the children at Preschool, Little Kindy, Kindergarten and Classes 1 and 2 receive weekly gardening direction from a gardening teacher. They help sow seeds, create and spread compost and apply specially prepared paste to trees in the playground. This has resulted in the children being more connected to the gardens and its fruits.
At the Middle Cove campus, the children learned to make and distribute various biodynamic fertilisers that create healthy growing conditions for the soil, the plants and the surrounding life.
At Middle Cove, the early years’ emphasis of gardening lessons is on practical activities that connect the child with the physical world in the garden. The children are slowly introduced to different aspects of the garden, allowing them plenty of time to absorb the plants and animals around them.
They learn to distinguish between root, seed, fruit and flower and vegetables, and as well as observing the life cycle of the plants, students also observe the habits of insects in the garden.
Children discover edible weeds, explore soil texture and make garden sculpture out of special knots.
Older children consolidate their skills in transplanting, seed sowing, weeding, feeding the soil and preparing the compost heap. The curriculum includes the effects of weather, sun and moon paths and seasons on the garden.
Although formal gardening lessons finish at the end of Year 6, high school students can often be found in the garden as it benefits the curriculum. They can be found harvesting ingredients for their food technology classes, writing inspiration for poetry, observing insects for biology, learning about sustainable biomes for geography and of course, maths in nature. Our high school building sits adjacent to the biodynamic garden and Year 7 have a number of students who enthusiastically flock to the garden at recess and lunchtime every day, voluntarily caring for the chooks and doing other pertinent tasks. They really appreciate being helpful.
We also offer Year 7 the opportunity to spend one class a week in the garden. They contribute to the necessary tasks such as moving mulch, building a hugel, restoring bushland adjoining the edible garden, making pest control remedies, performing chook care and propagating succulents for one of their environmental fundraisers.
Throughout the school, phenomenological Goethean observation skills are encouraged in our students, leading them to experiment with solutions and practically apply these learnings to the field which they are working. In the garden, this means they begin to notice what the plants, soil, animals and garden are telling them and find ways to support them.