Didactic box gardens in schools

Area characterisation: 

Schools in South Mirafiori district are suffering from decreasing number of students. More well-off families tend to enroll their children in schools nearer to the city center. As a consequence, a high percentage of children in Mirafiori schools come from economically and socially disadvantaged families. Fondazione della Comunità di Mirafiori has cooperated with schools to tackle this challenge since its establishment. The introduction of gardening boxes in schoolyards are flangked by educational activities involving pupils and teachers while the pupils’ families are involved in events and maintenance of the implemented NbS.

In South Mirafiori neighbourhood there are two “Istituti Comprensivi”, state educational institutes including primary and intermediate schools, I.C. Cairoli and I.C. Salvemini. The schools of the two institutes are spread across the whole neighborhood; the proGIreg container gardens are placed in five primary schools of the two institutes, in one kindergarten of Cairoli Institute, in a municipal kindergarten and in a vocational school.

Locations of the schools from east to west:
ENGIM vocational school:

  • school container garden: 4 wooden boxes, 120x80x40 cm; 1 wooden box 80x60x40 cm. Totalling an area of 4.32 m² at the entrance of the school and schoolyard.

Cairoli Institute: Via Torrazza school complex (primary school, intermediate school, main office)

  • school container garden: 2 wooden boxes 120x80x20 cm raised to a height of 70 cm; 10 wooden boxes 120x80x40 cm; 4 wooden boxes 80x60x40 cm, total of 12 m² in the school backyard.

Via Artom kindergarten:

  • school container garden: 6 wooden boxes, cm 60x80x40; 1 wooden box, cm 120x80x40, for a total of 3.84 square meters in the school backyard.

Via Rismondo primary school:

  • school container garden: 2 wooden boxes 120x80x20 cm raised to an height of 70 cm at the school entrance; 5 wooden boxes 120x80x40 cm and 3 wooden boxes 80x60x40 cm in the school backyard, total area of 8 m².

Salvemini Institute:
Castello di Mirafiori school complex (primary school, intermediate school)

  • school container garden: 12 wooden boxes 120x80x40 cm, of which 2 at the school’s entrance, 10 in the courtyard, total area of 11.5 m².

Morante primary school

  • school container garden: 4 wooden boxes 120x80x40 cm, total of 3.84 m² added by proGIreg to integrate into the existing school garden

Salvemini school complex (primary school, main office)

  • school container garden: 12 wooden boxes 120x80x40 cm, total of 11.5 m² in the school backyard.

“Polo dell’Infanzia” municipal kindergarten:

  • school container garden: 10 wooden boxes 60x80x40 cm for a total of 4.8 square meters in the school main courtyard.

Establishing vegetable gardens in all primary schools of Mirafiori, plus two kindergarten and one vocational school, and providing educational activities focusing on sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and the proGIreg NbS aims at improving the science curriculum of the schools, increase their attractiveness and raise awareness of environmental sustainability, NbS and how they can improve life quality in the cities.
The educational training also has goal of increasing the attractiveness of Mirafiori schools while teaching practical environmental behavior.


Planning and preparatory activities (administrative and technical procedures)
Meeting with the schools’ principals and teachers represented the first step of planning. Secondly, organising co-design workshops involving teachers, non-teacher staff, pupils and their families. The co-design workshops addressed:

  • practical set-up of the gardens
  • maintenance of the gardens and organizing according activities
  • discussing the plans with the school’s managers and teacher concerned
  • conducting on-site inspections in all schools to identify suitable sites for the implementation of the school gardens.

The NbS implementations on the schools’ premises required the approval by the school managers and the school board, to which the preliminary project had been proposed.
Co-design and engagement activities
For each school garden, a first meeting was held with teachers concerned, who supported organising a co-design workshops to discuss the different aspects of the NbS implementation and maintenance, such as:

  • number and dimensions of the containers, positioning of the boxes in the school premises,
  • types of vegetables to be cultivated,
  • involving families in managing the gardens.

Based on the outcomes of the co-design workshops, the school container gardens were installed together with the pupils, their families, or both.
The NGO, together with the teachers planned the educational activities at the beginning of each school year, which are tailored to the needs of each class.
The ENGIM vocational school process has been slightly different, as the garden is part of the activities aimed at students with special needs: The garden was designed jointly with the school manager and the support of teachers. The gardens were implemented with mentally disabled students.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

Teachers reacted positively to the proposal of school container gardens and actively responded and engaged. The number of classes interested to participate in the project exceeded the offer for the second school year. Non-teaching staff are also keen to be engaged and cooperate in maintaining the gardens.
Moreover, parents and grand-parents participating in co-design workshops positively commented on the project and offered their availability to contribute to maintaining the gardens. However, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the interruption of activities and their involvement, which had been planned for the spring-summer 2020. This situation stretched into the school year 2021/2022 with events in the school gardens with engaged parents not feasible. An event at Cairoli’s kindergarten took place in June 2022.
Therefore, involving families in the maintenance of school gardens not yet been achieved. During the summer 2022, volunteering by some non-teaching school staff and integrated staff from Fondazione Mirafiori took care of the school gardens.
Educational activities in primary schools were concluded in June 2022. Teachers have expressed interest in continuing the activities and stressed the importance of involving external expertise provided by FM. Therefore, local stakeholders are engaged in fundraising and grant-writing activities in order to provide further support to the schools.

The NbS has provided all primary schools of the neighbourhood with open-air classrooms to experiment and learn about sustainable agriculture and the interaction between plant cultivation and the ecosystem.
The educational activities allowed to introduce key themes of proGIreg to pupils such as care for the environment, bascis of producing food but also the social aspect of gardening. Moreover, providing schools with tools and methods for teaching these concepts of understanding natural processes.
Moreover, installing the wooden boxes on concrete pavings help mitigate heat island effects. The plant choice according to guidelines provided by DBios of UNITO ensured the creation of green spots with resources for local pollinator populations.

NbS benefits 
  • Developing climate change adaptation; improving risk management and resilience
  • Increase Biodiversity
  • Increase accessibility to green open spaces
  • Increase communities’ sense of ownership
  • Increase social interaction
  • Provision of health benefits
  • Social inclusion
  • Social learning about location & importance of NBS

EU Horizon 2020 project: 

Total implementation budget: 81.000 € (proGIreg funds)

NbS classification 
  • Afforestation

Fondazione della Comunità di Mirafiori:

e-mail: v.bianco@fondazionemirafiori.it

websites: www.fondazionemirafiori.it


website: www.progireg.eu