Dig this: Read to children about gardens, and they will envision lush colors and delicious fruits. Garden with children and they will learn with all five senses and remember those lessons forever.
Any school can have a garden. GrowingGreat is a California-based organization that helps schools plan, implement and maintain gardens. According to the group’s founder, Marika Bergsund, school gardens can be grown anywhere, regardless of climate. All you need is a sunny area, healthy soil, water and the vision to bring a garden to life.
Sensory learning. According to Peggy Curry of GrowingGreat, the experience is particularly true for children with special needs. These students respond well to a kinesthetic approach towards learning—the garden hosts a plethora of opportunities for the students to touch, smell, see and taste the fruits of their labor, as well as to try new foods.
Anticipated and unexpected benefits. Peggy adds that creating a school garden impacts so many aspects of education positively. Healthier food alone can promote longer attention spans and better grades, introduce children to lifelong lessons in healthy nutrition and create a sense of responsibility for another living thing.
Resources abound by surfing the web with your green thumb (and fingers). The National Gardening Association is just one organization which provides a wealth of information for all gardeners, with a special section of their website dedicated to gardening with children. The organization has tips for starting and maintaining school gardens, ideas for curriculum and unique fundraising programs.
Geography, geometry and gardening. According to Bergsund, here are a few suggestions for incorporating gardens into traditional school subjects:
- Language Arts: Gardens tied to literature literally bring the story for life. Read a good story such as Peter Rabbit by Beatrice Potter, The Sunflower House by Eve Bunting, and The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, and then go out and plant the plants you see in the book.
- Math: Measuring and data collection are natural math activities in the garden. Young students can use rulers to measure space between plants or seeds as they plant, while older students use square footage and other advance mathematical concepts to design garden layouts. Students can also measure create data tables plotting plant growth.
- Social Science: Agriculture is an important element of any history study. Planting a Native American Three Sisters garden or a Colonial America garden distinguishing between Old World and New World plants enriches learning about different people in our history.
- Science: Gardens are the greatest science classroom. Students can experience the life cycles of plants and insects in a garden. They can measure rainfall, air and soil temperatures and angles of the sun to learn about weather and the seasons. Different soil mediums and amendments can teach about geology. And every day in the garden is a lesson in environmental science and the importance of keeping our air, land and water clean.
Now, stop reading and start digging!