Gardening is a productive, peaceful pastime. In today's generation though, the art of gardening is often overshadowed by technology. Why not introduce gardening into the school setting? Together, the combination of education and relaxation can be both educational and fun.
Improvement of teamwork skills
Student Benefits of Having A Garden At School
Growing a garden takes a village - this is a popular quote among the gardening community. When it comes to having a garden at school, this is especially true because the entire class (or possibly the entire school) is involved in the garden’s success. Students can take turns caring for the garden, picking its fruits and vegetables, and replanting. This fun way of taking turns builds teamwork skills.
Being able to successfully grow a garden does wonders for a gardener’s self-esteem. After all, there’s nothing better than admiring the flowers or fresh vegetables that you’ve grown from the ground up. In school-aged children, growing a garden can help boost their confidence by helping them to feel able and capable. As a result, their grades may improve and gardening can have a positive impact inside the classroom, too.
Gardening is a peaceful way to pass time. Those who actively work in the garden benefit from stress-reduction - adults and children alike. School is an important part of a child’s life but can be stressful at times. The stress-reducing ability of gardening is a key factor for school children. Children who have decreased stress get better grades and tend to be able to socialize better.
In addition, children who suffer from developmental delays such as autism tend to find gardening a great way to release built-up tension through a means that is productive.
Subject integration and hands-on learning
Gardening is an interesting, multi-dimensional activity. In school settings, it gives children a way to learn about a variety of topics, many of which expand past the basic “plant growth” knowledge.
Learning about gardens gives insight into the life cycle of plants and living beings, and familiarizes children with weather patterns. It can be integrated into a number of subjects, making them fun and hands-on.
Develops a love of nature
Spending time nurturing the garden through the art of growing can quickly connect children to nature. The regular exposure helps them develop a love of nature that can last a lifetime, providing them with a healthy way to spend their free time and getting them up and out of the house during the summer.
Health and Nutrition Benefits of Having A Garden At School
Encourages healthy eating
By having a vegetable garden at school, students are encouraged to incorporate healthier snacks into their diet. The veggies grown from these plants can be offered as snacks at recess, or as part of a healthy lunch menu. If the school you’re associated with has any after school cooking clubs or organizations, you can opt to introduce some of the home-grown food.
Even if students decide not to eat the produce cultivated at school, you’ll be pleased to learn that according to the Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy, three times more students opt to eat healthy snacks after being involved with a garden. This surprising statistic does not change depending on whether the food was grown at school or purchased from the store.
Higher knowledge of nutrition
Having a school garden introduces students to the world of health and nutrition by way of hands-on instruction. They learn as they plant and grow in a garden, and this form of learning has more appeal to children than a lecture on the same subject.
Frequent physical activity
Despite seeming like easy work, working in the garden can be a physical challenge. Deep flower roots, weeds, and vegetables that grow out of the ground can all be hard to pull. Not to mention that if your garden is a flower-based garden, students will need to spend extra time turning the soil. They might also have to do some edging - talk about hard work! Since the garden will need regular tending, you can help your students to be more active.
Valuable time outside
Gardening is primarily an outdoor activity. It’s really no wonder that having gardening as a hobby increases the amount of time that the participant spends outside. Students who care for a school garden will spend a regular amount of time outside as they tend to the garden, increasing their overall outdoor exposure. This activity is especially helpful for children who are full of curiosity can energy.
School Gardening Tips
Set ground rules
Every successful gardening community program has rules. This is no different for school gardens. Regardless of how many people contribute, your school garden should have a set of clear, easy-to-understand ground rules. They can include rules regarding responsibilities and their delegation.
A few good rules include leaving both bugs and dirt in the garden, using tools properly, no pushing, shoving, or throwing dirt, walking instead of running, and working as a team.
Have you ever noticed how children always seem to want to walk on pathways? It’s a good idea to ensure that your garden has a variety of pathways leading throughout. This will prevent the plants from being accidentally stepped on and ruined, and will also improve the garden’s appearance.
If you are a teacher or organizer that is considering or has recently set up a school garden, you should not forget to get involved. Work in the garden with the students and have fun - gardening should be a good shared experience for all.
Make use of recycled materials
Gardening supplies can be expensive. From pots and planters, seeds, and fertilizer, the items needed can rack up quite a bill. However, if you’re making a school garden, chances are that you’ll have some sort of recycled material at your disposal. Styrofoam cups from the staff room? An old plastic bucket? Empty paper towel rolls? Each of these items makes great (and cheap!) planters, not to mention that they give new life to discarded items.
You can get creative with this and get the students involved. Work together to brainstorm ways to use old supplies in your garden, or take to a sharing site such as Pinterest for creative ideas. If your recycled materials need preparation before they can be used, get the students to help you.
Develop a routine
It’s always a good idea to create a schedule. Take your class out on the same day every week and be diligent in following your schedule. The children will learn to recognize the schedule and begin to look forward to their time outside in the garden.
When the gardening efforts involve multiple classes, consider working with other teachers to come up with a routine that works for everyone. Maybe you want to have your classes go out together, or maybe you don’t - either way, consistency in your decided routine is key.
While it may be tempting to whip up a PowerPoint or slideshow or have students read about the process of growing plants consider demonstrating the process yourself.
This will keep students actively engaged and encourage them to join in. It can also be a good way to bond with your class.