Gardening and Kids….
Listen carefully next time you’re speaking with a gardener. Watch the corners of their eyes squint as they watch the clouds on the horizon, waiting for clues on the weather. Notice how they gently touch the soil—never dirt–breathing in its earthiness. Catch their delight in little things, the frothy bloom of Bridal Wreath, the cascade of winter cilantro, the welcome reappearance of old friends—for plants become friends—as they emerge from winter slumber.
Gardeners always reference those that taught them to cherish the earth and its bounty. Almost always, a beloved aunt, father, grandparent, or neighbor took them as a child and introduced them to the garden.
At the Demonstration Garden last year, we welcomed home-schooled students, ages 8-17. Cradling chickens, they pelted us with questions. Small hands were thrust close to the center of a compost pile, hot with decomposition. Red wigglers travel sideways in the soil, the students learned. Night crawlers make three-foot journeys to the surface and back down, each gulping in nutrients as they aerate the clay. Potato leaves planted in old tires and trash cans stretch themselves towards the sun, hinting to the young students of their harvest.
For today’s children, with spare time spent on hard soccer fields or tutored by cell phone and computer, their experiences at the Demonstration Garden can foster a life-long love of gardening.
How do children benefit from gardens? Educators have found that working in a garden: supports interdisciplinary education,
- addresses multiple learning styles,
- promotes good nutrition,
- increases physical activity
- teaches patience, responsibility, and cooperation,
- improves social skills,
- builds classroom relationships,
- creates an appreciation for teamwork,
- increases self-esteem and self-worth, and
- beautifies the environment.
At the Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road, we like to think we are sprouting new caretakers of the earth.