CHILDREN IN THE GARDEN
Planting a seed, tending to it, and watching it grow until it flourishes into a mature plant can be a magical experience. Planting a seed, and watching it mature until it produces a fruit that you can consume can be life changing. Observing this process helps adults and kids alike understand where the food they eat comes from. Food is no longer anonymous or mysterious. Not to mention, something you grow yourself always tastes better than something bought at the grocery store.
In recent years, schools across the country have been putting in school gardens and providing children with the opportunity to experience the joy of growing food. The gardens provide a safe and holistic environment for children to practice working cooperatively in groups; to learn how to plant, grow, harvest, preserve, and share food (an invaluable lesson that many people today never learn); to hone artistic skills by designing and implementing garden plans and creating art inspired by the garden; to have a hands-on experience while learning science and nutrition; to move their bodies and engage with their classmates. Schools that have started a garden program have done so in different capacities. Some gardens are small, and tended by volunteers or clubs. Some schools have built gardens that are big enough to supplement or even fully accommodate the needs of the school cafeteria. Some schools have found creative ways to integrate garden education into the general curriculum.
Children receive many benefits from working in the garden; here is a list of a few of them.
- Some studies have shown that exposure to “greenness” (like a garden or natural area) significantly improves children’s cognitive functions, which could suggest that giving children a break from the classroom to have time outside would actually improve their performance in school.
- Working in the garden has been shown to encourage children to have their own gardens as adults, which in turn encourages them to eat a well-rounded and healthier diet.
- Gardening gets kids out of the house, away from screens, and gets them to move their bodies in a meaningful and purposeful way.
- Seeing fruits and vegetables grow helps kids gain an increased understanding of seasonality and food production.
- Development of a sense of responsibility, liability, and consequences. Working in the garden gives children the chance to receive immediate feedback for the effort and quality they exert. Hard work yields a bountiful harvest; negligence will not bring forth vegetables and fruit.
- Gardening is a fun, engaging, and incredibly rewarding. It is something that children can take pride in and is therefore incredibly good for children’s self-esteem.