This morning, I volunteered at our kid’s school to help plant the fall/winter garden. I showed up with knee pads and garden gloves, ready to work – but the children were on it. I mostly observed them do their thing. The garden at Lewis Vincent Elementary is not elaborate. They used small areas along windows on the back courtyard for planting.
For supplies, the 4th and 5th grade teachers sent a notice home Monday requesting donations of winter plants and seeds, soil, watering buckets and other needed tools. As usual with this school – parents responded.
Two days have been designated for planting and from this morning's work, the garden already contains winter vegetables including a variety of lettuces, cabbage, and brussel sprouts.
Also in are herbs like rosemary, mint, chives, ginger root and one without a tag we could not identify (the kids said it smelled like feet). The garden also contains ornamental items – pretty peppers, cabbages and soon to arrive is the one parent's donation of a live Christmas tree to be planted on the side of the courtyard.
There were quite a few blooming experts in the group as many have gardens at home. All the kids were exuberant as they dug and planted, shared about what they contributed, smelled the fragrant herbs and examined plants they had never seen before.
Tending the garden will be worked into their activities throughout the year and when harvest time comes, Ms Baynard said they will make a huge pot of soup. YUM!
Some of my most meaningful childhood memories involve working with my parents in our small yard garden in Chicago, or watching my grandmother tend the huge garden on their farm in Mississippi. I’m not good at gardening, but try a little something every year and enjoy passing this experience along to my children. (See My lesson from gardening.)
There is so much to be learned from gardening. In her article The Garden, A Master Teacher, Kirsten Berhan writes:
“It seems that educational experts through the ages and across the globe have all cited the garden as a master teacher. In the garden we learn first-hand about nurturing and caring, patience and discovery, stewardship and respect, beauty and life. We also learn practical skills such as; mathematics, science, health and nutrition. Perhaps even more relevant today is the opportunity that gardening gives us to reconnect with nature. Research and anecdotal evidence tells us that when this connection with our natural world is established and nurtured, the child’s mind becomes centered and focused, eager to attack other areas of academia.”
It is so effective, there is an instructional strategy called Garden Based Learning, (GBL), that uses the garden as a teaching tool. Research shows children exposed to this teaching method experience increased vegetable preferences and nutrition knowledge as well as improved environmental attitudes. They also show higher levels of learning and evidence of stronger life skills.
Thankfully, the presence of school gardens is growing across the country.
|Starside Elementary School, Kansas|
image source: kansasgreenschools.org
Image sources: mathditto2.com, schoolgardenwizard.org and ossedc.wordpress.com
In this technological age, children need such opportunities to connect with the life process and nature.
Does your neighborhood school have a garden? If so, please share about it.
If not, why not? Here are some resources to help make it happen:
- Research Supporting the Benefits of School Gardens.
- Let’s Move School Garden Checklist a downloadable step-by-step guide provided by Let’s Move that informs how to safely grow your own fruits and vegetables with students.
- Sowing the Seeds of Success, a booklet by Marcia Eames-Sheavly that defines organizational steps needed to start a gardening project involving kids and the community, and considerations to maintain the project long term.
- Kidsgardening.org – a resource of the National Gardening Association providing grants and free materials for educators and families so that they may use gardening as a resource for learning. Their stated mission is 'A garden in every school.'
- How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers - a resource book with strategies, to-do lists, sample letters, detailed lesson plans, and tricks of the trade from decades of experience developing school garden programs for grades K–8. The book's hands-on approach aims to make school garden projects accessible, inexpensive, and sustainable.
- Getting Started: A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms - a 51-page downloadable guide designed and published by the Center for Ecoliteracy in collaboration with Life Lab Science Program, a national leader in garden-based education.