Before participating in the KGPSY at his school, Sebastian was described by his teachers as an involved but disruptive student. His lack of confidence and focus resulted in him performing as the class clown. When Jo, the Garden Specialist, first met Sebastian in Year 8, he “wasn’t very impressed”. Unfortunately, Sebastian has a severe learning disability, which has impacted on the development of his social skills and confidence in traditional classroom settings.
As part of the Year 9 Food Science cohort involved in KGPSY at his school, Sebastian embraced the challenges of the outdoor learning environment, and developed a respectful relationship with Jo. During COVID-19 when Jo was tending to the garden, Sebastian regularly went into school to assist Jo – helping him build a fence and greenhouse for the school garden. In addition to offering a break from the isolation of lockdown, Sebastian remarked “…it was good to get out and see where our food was growing and what we were going to start using in the kitchen. It was cool to see how they were grown and how it was done.”
The school has created a modified program for Sebastian, who is in the garden once or twice a week, for up to four hours at a time. The hands-on activities expanded skill-sets and increased responsibility has empowered Sebastian to realise some significant personal transformations. When assisting a Year 7 group to set up the school’s pizza oven, Sebastian emerged as a patient and generous leader. Sebastian has also experienced significant weight loss as a result of being physically active in the garden, and his improved confidence and sense of self has enabled him to secure part-time employment: of which he is very proud.
Sebastian has nurtured his new skills outside of the school environment by taking the initiative to set up his own vegetable garden at home. After purchasing his own garden bed, Sebastian sought out advice from Jo: sharing the experience with someone whose interests and expertise he trusts and respects.
Jo sees the changes in Sebastian’s behaviour, health, confidence, and engagement as a direct consequence of the teamwork and commitment that kitchen gardens necessitate. As far as Jo sees it, growing a kitchen garden instils an ongoing sense of responsibility, maintenance and care. This empowers students to be leaders across the whole cycle of pleasurable food education – from planting to harvesting – and beyond into the kitchen, home, and wider community.