Activities conducted in Planting Cities: links between educational and gardening activities

3.1 Youth work and gardening activities

At first sight, an urban garden appears only as a shared space where people gather together to grow fruits, vegetables, small livestock, etc. Actually it’s much more! Community gardens provide health, economic, educational, social and environmental benefits to participants and the community at large. It creates a social gathering place for the community and encourages the sharing of intergenerational knowledge. It’s a neutral space where people from all backgrounds gather, meet and share. It has the very real potential to be important to its neighbourhood and creates strong ties between neighbours fighting the lack of social cohesion in urban communities. Urban gardening can be seen as one of the most powerful tools for building communities, teaching participative and active citizenship, creativity, developing entrepreneurial skills, taking one of the most basic needs food supply in own hands.

Gardening can be a perfect tool for non-formal education; indeed it doesn’t’ give only the opportunity to explore the healthy lifestyle choices, learn the origins of the food and understand nature but it is also a tool of empowerment of young people, a tool to learn practical skills for own life and work market, a tool to explore possibilities of improving the footprint of the urban ecosystems, and, the most important, of building a community around it and bringing new people into this community.

In this framework, youth work can be crucial to develop bottom-up approaches and practices to promote inclusive growth, healthy lifestyles, and young people’s participation into society.

In the following pages, you will discover some activities done within the project Planting Cities, getting new ideas and tools for doing educational activities with gardening at local and transnational level.


3.2 International training course on urban gardening and youth work

Within the project Planting Cities (Erasmus+, Key Action 2 – Capacity Building in the field of youth), a 8-day international training course (TC) on urban gardening, mobility and youth field was hosted by CESIE. → TC ? What ‘s it? Let’s discover here!

The TC, held in October 2015, was dedicated to urban gardening to be exploited as a means to support social inclusion and community development: through non-formal methods, practical activities and field visits, participants acquired new tools and competencies which contributed to develop future local activities and to encourage the collaboration between urban gardening and youth work. During these days, a close collaboration was established with local organisations involved in urban gardening and youth work where participants had the chance to learn different good practices and methodologies, to be used as inclusive activities to improve the quality of youth work as well as the sustainability of urban areas in their local context. Moreover, the youth workers had the opportunity to give their own contribution to the local community, by cleaning and redeveloping a public space located in Ballarò, a deprived area in Palermo.

In the following table you can find more details.

Location (Country and city/village) Palermo (Italy)
Target group involved


30 youth workers from Italy, India, China, Nepal and Slovenia
Objectives of the activity and learning outcomes ●      To be more aware about the positive impact of gardening and how use it to improve quality of life and well-being, about healthy eating and development through sustainable consumption

●      To acquire competences in mentoring and management mobility activities linked with gardening

●      To learn new approaches to stimulate social cohesion, develop non-formal youth activities based on social innovation elements/built skills for community involvement and leadership

●      To enhance cooperation and cross-cutting synergies between different countries to improve the quality and the impact of youth work

Methodologies The working method was mainly based on the active participation and learning of participants through non formal activities and dedicated to new methods of youth work and implementing mobility projects. As well the theoretical sessions provided by the program was integrated in an interactive way. The use of the urban garden was the crucial tool used to foster physical and psychosocial health and help building notions of living-together, collaboration and shared values.

The main methodological approaches were:

●      learning by doing,

●      learning by teaching,

●      cooperative and intercultural learning

●      peer learning

The main methods were:

●      team building and energizers,

●      presentations,

●      Open Space Technology,

●      Open Educational Resource

Description of the main activities Erasmus+, Project and participants presentation

The coordinator of the project gave an overview of the training course and the co-funding programme, introducing the teamwork (project coordinator, trainers and support staff) objectives, target groups, working methods and programme.

Team building and expectations, motivations and concerns of participants

An effective method for collecting the expectations of participants is called the ‘Clothesline’. All participants received papers on which items of clothing are drawn and present their expectations from the training course and the group, as well as, their concerns and fears that might occur. The participants reflect individually and write it down on the “clothes” provided. Then they stick them on a clothes line made of string (hung in an appropriate space in the working room) or drawn on the wall. The trainers pick-up randomly the paper which ensures the confidentiality of the participants. They present it and provide feedback on ways to reduce the fears and concerns and take into account the expectations in order to adapt the programme to the needs of participants.


Urban Gardening: a general introduction

Urban gardening, the main topic of the TC, was introduced. The session focused on the these key points:

●      Definition and main facts

●      General benefits

●      Collection of different types of urban gardening

●      Examples of different purposes that urban gardening can have

The session was very important for introducing basic information about the topic, and was useful for the following sessions.


Presentation of local research about urban gardening and social inclusion

Participants, divided in mixed groups (not by nation), presented their finding and information about their local context regarding the topic of the TC. In order to do this in an innovative way, the trainer explained them the ”Viking investigation” method, a non-formal activity to give a format for a fast and effective presentation on the topics to help participants share their own knowledge.


Organization Bazaar

This event gave participants the chance to get to know each other’s organization activities and aims better. In the beginning the coordinator of the TC introduced CESIE, as the hosting organization. After that, the other sending organizations had the opportunity to have the floor through the method “organizations’ bazaar”.

Participants simulated a bazaar in which each one of the stands represented one partner organization. They could move and visit different stands to get information about their activities directly from the other participants. This activity was very important in order to network and share any ideas useful for new projects.


Urban Garden and Non-formal education (I): Nutrition and well-being

The session started with the trainer explaining the importance of nutrition and the basic understandings on health and wellbeing plus a non-formal activity related on the exchange of nutrition habits of participants in groups mixed by countries.


Urban Garden and Non-formal education (II): sustainability

During this session, participants were introduced to the concept of sustainability, including:

●      Reuse of recycled materials and junk in urban gardening

●      Ideas on how use them in urban gardening and everyday life

●      Sustainable urban gardening techniques, such as permaculture

●      The difference between organic gardening and permaculture

All these ideas and information gave them the basis to start discussing about possible activities to be carried out during the workshop on urban gardening and as it was opened to the local community in Palermo in the last day of the training course.

Youth, mobility and volunteering : EVS and Ready for EVS guidance and support for EVS volunteers

The session started with basic information on Erasmus + programme and tips on the EVS mobility, focusing on the rules and activities for an experience of hosting volunteers. Then, divided in groups, they were involved in a role playing game acting as a good/bad mentor and as a volunteer. This game gave the chance to all the group to invent funny situations that might happen while working as a mentor or as a volunteer, understanding better the challenges they could face in the future.

Urban garden and EVS Local Plans

Recognizing the need to develop concrete plans for the future activities with EVS volunteers, the trainers proposed a Swat/stakeholders analysis as format for a non-formal activity in order to develop a basic plan of activities contents for a EVS Project Idea. Participants developed the analysis in small groups of 6 people, and then presented it in the plenary room, in order to share and understand together what they developed during the workshop.

The trainers introduced the Open Space Technology methods, which main aim is to share and spread knowledge and competencies among different participants, through small group workshops with topics proposed by the participants.

Participants started proposing and writing their ideas on a flipchart; then, divided in groups, on the basis of their interests and knowledge, they developed their proposals and ideas on urban gardening and social work activities.

Local best practices

During the weeks, CESIE organized several visits to local realities dealing with urban gardening and youth. During the visit, the staff of each organisation showed participants their activities and products, inspiring them to put in practice specific techniques and ideas, once returning to their countries.

●      Orto Capovolto: It is a cooperative dealing with urban gardening in Palermo; the team, composed by young architects, educators and youth workers, plan, develop and establish different type of urban gardens for individuals, families, children, schools and organisations.

●      CODIFAS: it is a consortium of defence and promotion of the agriculture in Sicily (Italy); located in Palermo, he has two shared urban gardens, where individuals and families can rent a plot for cultivating organic vegetables, supported by tutors; moreover, CODIFAS organizes public event, promoting educational activities.

●      Guerrilla Gardening – Palermo: this non-formal group based on Palermo run gardening activities on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to utilize, such as an abandoned site, an area that is not being cared for, or private property.

●      La Fraternità: it is a cooperative hosting adults with psycho-physical disabilities as well as severe and moderate mental disabilities. The cooperative hosts and normally some EVS volunteers that supports the work of local educators. Among the activities, they carry on gardening activities with the disabled people.

Workshop open to the local community in Piazza Mediterraneo

The youth workers had the opportunity to give own contribution to the local community, by cleaning and redeveloping Piazza Mediterraneo, a public space located in Ballarò, a deprived area in Palermo. Divided in groups and involving local people, several types of activities were carried out: vertical garden using recycled plastic bottles, collection of rubbish placed in the square, establishment of new pots, colours walls, pots and benches.

Final evaluation

In the last session, the evaluation of the TC was done in both formal and informal ways.


Morning Afternoon Evening
Day 1            Arrival of participants: welcome and accommodation Ice-breaking &                         group building activities Welcome dinner
Day 2 Erasmus+, Project & participants presentation


Team building & expectations, motivations & concerns of participants



Urban Gardening: a general introduction


Presentation of local researches about urban gardening & social inclusion


Daily evaluation

Organization bazaar
Day 3 Energizer


Urban garden & non-formal education (I): nutrition & well-being


Taste game


Daily evaluation




Urban garden & non formal education (II): sustainability




Daily evaluation

Day 4 Energizer


Youth, mobility & volunteering: EVS



Daily evaluation



Ready for EVS welcome: guidance & support for EVS volunteers


Daily evaluation

Day 5 Energizer


Meeting with EVS volunteers & mentors


Visit to local associations involving EVS volunteers


Daily evaluation





Local best practice:




Daily evaluation




Day 6 Energizer


Open educational resource: intro & contributions


Daily evaluation



Local best practice:

Guerrilla Gardening


Daily evaluation

Intercultural night
Day 7 Energizer


Visit to local urban garden in Palermo:


Workshop on urban gardening open to the local community


Daily evaluation

Dinner and free time
Day 8 Energizer


Urban garden &

EVS local plans




Youth Pass


Final evaluation

Dinner and free time
Day 9 Departures of participants


3.2.1 Tips for carrying out a training course

So, if you get inspired from this experience and would like to replicate it in your country, don’t forget to manage the TC properly; indeed, as every training course, the success of an activity is a result of a long process of management before, during and after the activity foreseen.

Here you can find some useful tips:

Before the training
✓     Plan everything in advance: agenda, working team, space, materials necessary, eventual local transport, accommodation etc.

✓     Analyse the motivation, educational background and expectation of each participant. The more participants have the same level, the more the programme will suit every participant!

✓     Before the arrival send all the useful information to the participants, taking in consideration the multicultural aspects and special needs


During the training
✓     Follow a gradual learning flow! After an introductory session (presentation of the project, team and participants), it is good to introduce the main topics (urban garden and youth work) and, after, details of each topic.

✓     Once you talk about gardening, bear in mind the idea of the garden as an educational and social tool! It is a training for youth workers willing to use the gardening in their work, not a training for individuals eager to set up an own private garden!

✓     Interchange theoretical and practical sessions in order to keep high the motivation and concentration. Especially organize gardening activities, putting in practice what was learned.

✓     Stimulate creativity and diversity! As the participants are coming from different countries, and especially if they are from different continents, give them enough space to meet and exchange personal and professional ideas and knowledge.

✓     Plan several study visits! Especially for the urban gardening topic, it’s very welcomed to know close-up any reality dealing with gardening: community garden, cooperatives, NGO’s etc.

✓     Put yourself in their shoes—or seats. Give frequent breaks, especially for half-day or all-day sessions.

✓     Encourage participation. Make the session lively by engaging participants in the learning process.

✓     Solicit feedback on the training session and organize a daily evaluation! It will help to track motivation, the learning path and see if the session succeeds or not.

✓     Following daily evaluation of the participants and working team, revise the programme!

✓     Organize public local gardening activities! Valorise your intercultural group, giving the opportunity to run a local activity in a public space, such as a square, garden or any green area. Local people will become more interested and motivated to take bottom–up initiative with the participants of the training! Such public activity will be a practical result of the training as well as a small gift to the local community from the hosting group.

✓     Last day, make a final evaluation with the participants; get feedback about all the framework of the training carried out: agenda, logistics, learning outcomes, results, potential follow-up activities etc. You will take in consideration it during the follow–up activities with the working team.


After the training
✓     Make a final evaluation with the working team, paying attention also to the working methods used and their impact! The success of a new training is based on the deep evaluation of the previous one.

✓     Give visibility to the success of your training course! Use testimonies, video, pictures of the programme and places visited! It will help to have a more long and deep impact at local and transnational levels. Your experience could be taken as an example and replicated by other youth workers.

✓     Provide to the participants a certificate of participation


3.3 Local educational and gardening workshops

Within the project, 20 youngsters had the opportunity to carry out an EVS mobility in the project countries: → EVS? What ‘s it? Let’s discover here!

  • 2 Chinese, 1 Nepalese and 1 Indian in Italy (Palermo)
  • 2 Indian, 1 Chinese and 1 Nepalese in Slovenia (Koper)
  • 4 Slovenian and 2 Italians in China (Xinyang and Jiamusi)
  • 4 Italians and 2 Slovenians in India (Bhubaneswar)

In 5 months, they were involved in planning and implementing gardening workshops and social inclusion activities targeting people with fewer opportunities.

The working method was mainly based on the active participation and learning of these youngsters through non formal activities. The use of the urban garden was the crucial tool used to foster physical and psychosocial health and to help building notions of living-together, collaboration and shared values. In particular gardening workshops provided opportunities to develop skills in leadership, community organizing, cultural competency and programme planning, implementation and evaluation. Leadership development was enhanced through experiential learning.

Thus all activities allowed participants to recognise and valorise their skills and competences in order to increase their empowerment, confidence and mainly permit them to transfer the acquired skills in their personal and professional life.

Below you can find some examples of gardening workshops done in these project countries. Feel free to be inspired and run a similar activity in your country!

3.3.1 Workshop n°1

Location Koper (Slovenia)
Target group involved


People aged 18 to 30, who have limited opportunities for gardening activities due to living in a city
Objectives of the activity ●      to present innovative options for cultivating crops (edibles) and for optimal use of urban space for gardening purposes;

●      to introduce creative way of reuse of plastic bottles and wooden pallets;

●      to establish a vertical urban garden

Learning outcomes ●      An improved sense for working in groups/teamwork

●      An improvement in physical work skills by participants using different tools and their own hands

●      A raised awareness about the different possibilities for reusing materials such as plastic and wood

●      A raised awareness about the different possibilities for the optimal use of urban space for gardening purposes

●      empowerment to reuse plastic bottles and wooden pallets to create vertical garden

Material needed 3 pallets, hammer, drill, screws, sandpaper, 1,5 litres empty plastic bottles, string, needles, candles, box cutters, markers, soil, seeds, seedlings, water
Description of the activity step by step Duration: 3 hours.

Number of participants: 15 (the participants are divided into three groups)


Group 1: Participants must dismantle and reassemble the pallets to create a stand for plants:

By using a hammer, the dismantle the two axes of all three pallets and fix the dismantled parts, using a drill, at the base of the remaining two axes. The idea is to create three spaces per pallet in a shape of a box; closed from 5 sides, where the top side is open. Through the open side, place the reused plastic bottles (pots) in the established box. When the stand is finished, attach it to the wall by using a drill and screws.


Group 2: Sand the pallets in order to make the surface smoother and more pleasant to the touch:

–       By using sandpaper, the group sands all the sides of the three wooden pallets. Make sure to provide an ample variety of differently graded sandpaper. In order to ensure better longevity of the wood, it is advisable to cover the wood after sanding it with adequate varnish protection.


Group 3: Create two types of flower/plant pots using plastic bottles:

–       1st type: Place a bottle horizontally on the ground. Draw a rectangle by using a marker and cut it with a box cutter on the marked line to create a hole. Put the soil through the hole in the bottle and plant a seed or a seedling.

–       2nd type: Place a bottle vertically on the ground, draw a line around the bottle by using a marker in order to help you to cut it in a half.

Heat a needle by using a candle flame to make a hole in the plastic bottle cap for the insertion of a string that acts as a conduit for the passage of the water.

Turn the upper part of the cut bottle upside down and place it inside the lower part of the cut bottle (with plastic bottle cap is facing down).

Put the soil in the upper part facing down and plant seeds or seedlings. Participants should put the reused plastic bottles pots in the pallet vertical garden. .



3.3.2 Workshop n°2

Location (Country and city/village) Jiamusi (China)
Target group involved


Youngsters, children and volunteers
Objectives of the activity To get a better understanding of gardening in China
Learning outcomes ●      Understanding on how to start and maintain a vegetable garden

●      Improved teamwork skills

Material needed Young trees, vegetable seeds, tools for gardening
Description of the activity step by step Planning:

●      Initiate an online discussion group, where participants can contribute to the organizing of the workshop and communicate afterwards.

●      If the group decide that it is necessary, write a notice to attract more participants and volunteer.

●      Participants should consider to visit and already functioning organic garden in order to grasp a better understanding before building the garden.

●      Hold a meeting concerning the agricultural conditions in the participant’s hometown. Invite local agricultural experts, members from the board of municipal agriculture to share their knowledge related to the project. Find out which experts may be able to serve as mentors on the project.



●      Each Participant is given a flower pot.

●      Inset small rocks to block the holes at the bottom of the pot in order to avoid soil from falling out.

●      Fill the pot with soil about one centimetre from the top.

●      Each participant should plant seeds. As mentioned before in this booklet, different seeds require to be planted at different depths. Participants should consult their mentor about choosing and planting particular seeds.

●      After planting, the mentors give the participants ‘older plants’ (i.e. those which have already been growing for some months). Mentors should instruct participants about how to care for these ‘older plants’. Information on specific planting methods is also see earlier in the booklet.

●      Participants take the ‘older plants’ home for caring, growth, and observation for follow-up discussions.

●      So, in just one day participants learn to plant seeds and care for an ‘older plant’. In the following weeks and months the discussion group should be used to show a progress and results report for all the trees, vegetables, flowers grown for the project.



3.3.3 Workshop n°3

Location Palermo (Italy)
Target group involved


Youngsters with migrant background (4 – 12 years old) and EVS volunteers from China, India and Nepal
Objectives of the activity ●      To give basic knowledge on gardening

●      To promote young people’s active citizenship, through the renovation of a public green area

●      To promote mutual understanding between young people in different countries

Learning outcomes ●      Awareness about the use of recycled materials

●      Basic knowledge about horticulture

Material needed potting soil, plastic bottles, hoe, paint, hook, rake, scissors, small knives, gloves, a hammer, nails, watering can, wires, strings, wooden box, shovel
Description of the activity step by step At a local educational centre hosting youngsters with fewer opportunities, EVS volunteers carried out a workshop composed in 2 different macro gardening activities:

●      Create your own small gardens!

●      how to plant a small garden with the containers

Both activities aimed to establish two different types of gardens, by renovating and beautifying a deprived area.

Before starting, youngsters were divided in 2 big group of 10 people, according to their interest and motivation. Each activity was led by EVS volunteers that, previously planned and prepared the workshop, supported by their mentor.


Create your own small garden!

The idea was to create a small garden in an deprived area.

●      1st step: at the beginning of the session, trainer presented the programme and the aim of the activity. First, youngsters were invited to clean the green area and remove any existing grass, in order to prepare the ground where they were going to garden. Make aware that a green area need care.

●      2nd step: one by one, each participant was invited to dig the soil. Youngsters started to learn and be familiar with gardening tools.

●      3rd step: the EVS volunteers showed how to divide the ground in several rows; then, participants, divided in small groups, started making rows.

●      4th step: the EVS volunteers gave to each group some seeds and showed how to plant them in each row. Before to start to plant, EVS volunteers gave some very basic information about the types of seeds. Then, each group started planting, paying attention not to step on the other rows.

●      5th step: once finished, each group watered own rows of soil and seed.


How to plant a small garden with the containers

In front to the small garden, another group of youngsters were invited to make vertical garden, by reusing old pot and using recycled plastic bottles. The goal was to beauty a wall quite empty.

●      1st step: EVS volunteers showed the process on how to make pots with recycled plastic bottles: cut and make proper holes in the bottles.

●      2nd step: divided in small groups, youngsters made the pots.

●      3rd step: each group put soil, seeds and water in the own new pot

●      4th step: once new pots were done, youngsters coloured the new plastic pots and also coloured pot already existing.

●      5th step: last, EVS volunteers put the new pot in wall with strings.




3.4 Tips for carrying out gardening workshops

Are you ready to carry out your workshops? Don’t forget to follow these suggestions!


Before the activity
✓     Plan the type of activity you want to do and the specific topic you want to address. The garden is only a tool; choose which side of gardening field you want to discover.

✓     Focus on the target group; consider the needs of the people you want to involve.

✓     Plan all the steps of the activity: number of people attending the activity, the duration, the necessary materials, the venue etc. The earlier you get prepared, the easier and faster the result will be!

✓     Prepare an agenda, considering the time for each sessions, any break and task division among the working team

✓     Invite people to the activity! Bear in mind to give all the right information in order to avoid any drop in interest and motivation once the activity will be underway.


During the activity
✓     First, introduce the programme of the activity. The first impact with the participants is very important!

✓     At the beginning, make an ice-breaking activity. It will help participants to get to know each other, increase energy or enthusiasm levels, encourage team building and make people think about a specific issue.

✓     Give space for questions and discussions about the topic addressed.

✓     As it is a gardening activity, make the sessions very practical and active. The more sessions will be creative, the more impact you will reach!

✓     Make a final evaluation with the participants.


After the activity
✓     Make a final evaluation with your working team; check what was good and what was not. it will be help you for a new activity!

✓     Give visibility to the success of your local workshop! Use testimonies, video, pictures of the programme of the activity! It will help to have a more long and deep impact at the local level. Your experience could be taken as example and replicate from other youth worker.



[flipping-card id=1]