THUWAL — The Edible School Garden Project (ESGP) initiative is designed to integrate sustainable agricultural practices, healthy food habits and plant science into K-12 curricula.

The goal of the project is to offer a locally grown, free-of-charge, nutritious lunch to all K-12 students across Saudi Arabia by having teachers and students produce their own food at school.

The pilot project, initiated by the Center for Desert Agriculture (CDA) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) with the support of The KAUST School (TKS), is modeled after The Edible Schoolyard Project started by Alice Waters in the United States, and adapted by the CDA to the harsh desert climate of Saudi Arabia with the aim to shift the paradigm around the food system in the Kingdom through its engagement with K-12 students.

It provides a sustainable, innovative, playful, student-led gardening experience that forges the students’ connections with nature, the local community and the wider world by helping them understand the impact of food production on the future of the planet.

It does this by incorporating the full life cycle of a sustainably cultivated lunch — from sowing and harvesting to cooking and composting.

CDA Director Professor Rod A. Wing explained how the project originated. He said, “KAUST is committed to empower and inspire the young minds of Saudi Arabia with the knowledge, training and confidence to tackle what is arguably the most significant problem of this century: How can we sustainably feed our rapidly growing population?”

He continued, “We believe that edible education enables children to develop a deep and critical understanding of food production, healthy living and the environment, and encourages them to apply this knowledge to create sustainable food systems in their communities.”

TKS students worked together with plant scientists and garden experts to design Saudi Arabia’s first edible school gardens, while TKS educators and CDA faculty collaborated to develop the corresponding classes.

The two pilot gardens, located on the TKS kindergarten campus and grade 1-12 campus, are an integral part of the curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year. Supported by the University’s researchers, the students will undertake hands-on plant science experiments in the TKS laboratories.

TKS Director Dr. Michelle Remington spoke enthusiastically about the program. She said, “The Edible School Garden Project embodies The KAUST School’s vision to be a courageously bold leader in K-12 education and to positively impact humanity.

“The project enhances our science teaching and underlines the central role that the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play in our curriculum. The edible school gardens are outdoor classrooms where many of these SDGs are brought into practice for our students.”

The next phase of the pilot project looks at building a TKS greenhouse. The CDA is currently working with its partners to bring the Edible School Garden Project to more schools around the Kingdom. 

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