The Revival of School Inside a Garden

Jonnadel Sayco-Patonona

The School Inside a Garden (SIGA) was first introduced by the Department of Education Culture and Sports (now DepED-Department of Education) in the year 1995 through DECS Memorandum No. 77, s. 1995. It was initiated to support the national goal for a “Clean and Green” society. The focus back then was to grow flowers, medicinal herbs, exotic and fruit-bearing trees. Through this program, learners were given an opportunity to care for plants, flowers, and trees. This will not only provide shade and color to campuses but will also support one of DepEd’s core values which is being “Makakalikasan”.

Unfortunately, however, due to the change in national programs and leaders with different views, missions and goals, SIGA slowly went out of the picture. Though some activities related to this program were still done by a few, some learners and even teachers of the new generation do not know when asked about SIGA.

Young people nowadays have lost a valuable relationship with the natural world. The opportunity to interact and engage with mother nature becomes less and less available not to mention children becoming more of a techie person than an environment enthusiast. Often can one see children holding a hoe or a trowel to till the soil in the garden because most of their time are spent in front of their gadgets.

The education sector may have seen this pressing issue pushing the way to revive the program. November 29, 2018, through DepEd Memorandum No. 187, s. 2018, School Inside a Garden was once again revived. The primary focus of the program is on establishing schools inside gardens featuring mostly flowering plants and endemic and native trees such as, but not limited to Narra Tree (Pterocarpus indicus) and Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciose). This will make campuses throughout the country green and colorful. It also aims to strengthen the integration of environmental education both in the elementary and high school curriculum to sustain the environmental consciousness and action among learners and the community. This can be done by teaching students the concept of the role and value of trees and other natural resources in maintaining the ecosystem and during the conduct of actual planting of trees and plants.

SIGA also aims for every school to plant trees in every available space, thus, the concept of being a school inside a garden. Other alternative methods like container gardening, vertical gardening, and other appropriate alternative methods may be used by schools without available planting space. Schools are also tasked to make an inventory of plants and trees within the school vicinity which should be properly labeled to serve as part of the school’s educational efforts. The creation of nurseries for indigenous and endemic trees to serve as a laboratory for learners is also an aim of this program.

Through SIGA, the importance of schools and their roles in rehabilitating the heavily-challenged natural environment, and their initiatives toward a sustainable National Greening Program are also highlighted.

With the Youth for the Environment in Schools Organization (YES-O), Supreme Pupil Government (SPG), Supreme Student Government (SSG), and the Advanced Citizen’s Training Program (ACTP) as the lead for this program, learners will be involved in planting and caring for endemic flowering trees and plant species within their campuses.

By doing all of these, the values of unity, teamwork, volunteerism, nationalism, and community service for environmental protection and conservation will be instilled among the learners’ young minds. As an added benefit they will also get to experience the therapeutic effects of spending time in green spaces. Just like what the elders say “we should start them young” until such time that they develop these tasks into habits.

Advisers of the said organizations on the other hand shall set place a nurturing and monitoring plan to ensure the survival of the planted seedlings and the sustainability of the program itself. They may also forge partnerships with other organizations and government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to assist them in the implementation of the program. Through these partners planting materials such as seedlings and seedling trays can be provided. Trainings on caring and nurturing plants can also be included in their Memorandum of Agreement.

SIGA is a program under the Bureau of Learner and Support Services-Youth Formation Division. It was also launched and tied-up with the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program. The Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) was launched as a partnership between the Department of Agriculture (DA) and DepEd which aims to plant vegetables to not only green the campuses but also to support and reinforce the feeding program and income-generating projects of schools.

SIGA and GPP are both programs that lend support and complement Executive Order No. 193-Expanding Coverage of the National Greening Program from 2016-2028. However, these programs will be fully implemented in all schools when the current pandemic situation gets better and ends soon.

Contributing for the greater good of mother nature while letting children learn is a win-win situation for all humankind.