Nature as Teacher
The experience of seeing seed, soil, water and sun come together to transform into a tiny plant is a lesson in itself, and one not soon forgotten. Learning to appreciate the wonder and power of nature is the core of an environmental education. Planting a seed teaches students about the need to protect our natural resources, since clean and healthy soil and water are necessary for the plants to grow and for us to survive. Children learn that we need to preserve open land for food crops, and trees. Students will come to understand the unique and ‘alive environment of the soil; to protect it from pollution and to become good stewards’ of the land. By tending the garden, they will learn firsthand where our food really comes from, that our earth is our existence. It is our hope that most students will come to love gardening and have a garden through their whole lives, teaching their own children the value of self reliance and food security through a home garden.
The Law of the Land Responsibility and Teamwork
The fundamental rule of farming is that it takes responsibility and teamwork. If you don’t water your garden, your plants will die. If you don’t weed the garden, the weeds get worse and you have to work harder later to get the job done. Children learn how to be responsible by taking care of something and seeing the consequences when they don’t do the work. Gardens also provide a wealth of opportunities for teamwork. Students need to work together to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the plants and stay on top of the weeding. These opportunities to take responsibility and work with others can build students’ self esteem, and watching their garden grow is the sign of their success.
school garden programs are an effective tool for integrating curriculum across subject matter, thereby enhancing student learning and fostering a range of academic and social skills. Several studies suggest that students participating in garden-based learning score significantly higher on science achievement tests compared to students that did not experience any garden-based learning activities. Additionally, teachers perceive the garden to be effective at enhancing academic performance, physical activity, language arts, and healthful eating habits.
Gardens provide a wealth of opportunities for kids to get their hands dirty while learning lessons in many different areas of curriculum. Students can study plant anatomy and botanical life science, and those are just the beginning. Young scientists can change variables in the garden (such as watering frequency or plant spacing), then collect data on plant growth, chart the research and write up their analyses and conclusions. A creative class in California once tested whether watering lettuce with dyed-blue water changed the color of the lettuce (answer: no). For math lessons, teach students about perimeters, measurements and area as they design the layout of planting beds. Even the youngest students can learn basic measurements when they use a ruler to find the proper spacing when planting their seeds or plants. For many students, such hands-on learning experiences are vitally important and can contribute to greater success in the classroom.
School gardening increases children’s self-esteem, fosters relationships with family members, and enhances parental involvement. Further, garden-based education has been shown to deepen children’s connection with nature and foster positive attitudes about environmental issues. School gardens are an ideal medium for teaching children about nature’s beauty, interconnections, power, and fragility.
Sneaking in Nutrition Education
A vegetable garden gives your school all the benefits mentioned above, with the added reward of valuable nutrition lessons on the importance and joys of eating fresh foods. New reports continue to show the alarming rise of nutrition-related health conditions such as diabetes and obesity in children and adults across the U.S. And yet, with severe budget cuts in education and increasing demands on teachers, the amount of nutrition education being taught in schools continues to decline. Many teachers simply lack the time and the resources to add another content area to the existing curriculum. In this are, the garden is a double blessing. It lets you enrich your curriculum lessons while also providing an opportunity to teach nutrition when students sample their harvest. Children are much more likely to taste a vegetable they have grown, and vegetables always taste better straight from the garden.
Inspiring healthy lifestyles, and improving children’s food choices. After gardening, children have an increased interest in eating fruit and vegetables. Further, school gardening has been shown to improve students’ recognition of, attitudes toward, preferences for, and willingness to eat vegetables they have grown. Gardening also increased the variety of vegetables eaten.