Gardening is one of the subjects which can be regarded as having played a central and exemplary role in Waldorf education right from the beginning. The curriculum was conceived by the teachers of the first school, initially in consultation with Steiner, and has continued to be developed right up to the present.
The fundamental idea behind this subject is to engender in young people a deep understanding of the workings of nature through predominantly practical activity in the garden. Over a period of years of working in the school garden and observing the processes of nature, young people will ideally build up a store of experience, together with a sense of the immense cultural task they are involved in as human beings. This is nothing less than the care of the soil, the production of food and the responsibility for the earth. All these themes can be reflected in the more theoretical or observational parts of the lessons. Thus this subject can play its part in helping young people develop a sound sense of judgment.
On the one hand, they should acquire a well-founded feeling for the right way to treat the earth, plants and animals. On the other, they should develop a sharp eye for the things that are calling out to be done in the garden. It is a question, in other words, of having educated senses in conjunction with a habit of directly engaging the will. Of course, there are many points of contact between this and other subject areas, such as biology, history etc.
The curriculum which was developed early on envisaged gardening for classes 6 to 10. This was later expanded by some schools to include classes 1 to 5.
In many schools the scope of this subject is extended towards integrating the care of animals into the lessons.
It also often happens that the forestry and agricultural practicals are organised and run by the gardening teacher(s) (→ Projects and Practicals)
In relation to gardening it must be pointed out that conditions in individual schools as regards availability of land, classrooms and workshops vary considerably, and that what is pedagogically possible is largely dependent on them.