How Gardens Can Serve School Students and Communities

Gardening can serve more than one purpose – it can promote healthy eating habits, recognize locally produced foodstuffs, promote environmental stewardship and foster community spirit.

Gardening can be an engaging physical activity for students. Gardening encourages them to stand, walk, kneel and stretch as they tend their garden plot.

1. Promote Healthy Eating Habits

Caitlin Flanagan’s Atlantic piece on dedicating school time for gardening activities has caused much discussion and generated fierce controversy. She argues that public education is failing students, so their time should not be diverted by garden lessons that divert them away from academic pursuits.

Success of gardening interventions depends on many variables. Consistency and long-term commitment are vital; including all members of a school community early can encourage participation while contributing to sustainability. Furthermore, forging local partnerships is essential to accessing tools and equipment as well as funding sources, volunteers, garden-based learning curricula and free seed materials.

An inviting garden site can help promote healthier eating habits. Avoid sites near highways, airports, industry smokestacks and/or contaminated soil (for assistance please reach out to your local Cooperative Extension office). High quality soil is key for success but can be expensive if purchased commercially.

2. Build Self-Esteem

School gardens provide students with an ideal way to develop new skills safely. Students can practice using tools like paring knives or hammers while taking responsibility for tending plants and other living organisms in a controlled environment.

Gardening can also teach about health and the environment. A 2018 study discovered that children who participate in garden-based nutrition learning eat more low-fat fruits and vegetables at school.

Establishing the administration’s support is the cornerstone of a successful school garden program. Encouraging teachers to integrate garden learning into classroom lessons and outlining expectations regarding maintaining it are both key. Engaging parents from the outset also gives students ownership over the garden later on. However, over-reliance on volunteers may result in feelings of resentment; to prevent this, consider organizing a garden committee led by a chairperson and meeting regularly in order to coordinate details.

3. Encourage Teamwork

Gardening can help foster teamwork among students, teachers and community members. Volunteers may be available from local community organizations, scout troops and parent-teacher associations.

Gardening requires cooperation among team members in digging, planting, weeding and harvesting the fruits of one’s labors. Researchers conducted a study which demonstrated that students taking responsibility for their own garden bed increased motivation to learn.

Working together in the garden strengthens social interactions and emotional well-being, and school gardens can serve as an invaluable vehicle for teaching science, math, art and other subjects. Seed planting provides an ideal opportunity to demonstrate plant lifecycle; similarly soil quality testing for nutrients offers valuable lessons for science. Furthermore, gardens can serve as an avenue to gaining insight into food access issues as well as history.

4. Encourage Creativity

Students flourish creatively in gardens as they interact with plants and their environment. Art students, for instance, can increase their knowledge of plants by creating leaf rubbings or sketches based on the garden surroundings; music students may hone their improvisatory musical talents as they improvise sounds and rhythms using plant material or their own hands.

Teachers believe gardening can help students expand their ways of thinking or habits of mind, such as curiosity, flexibility, open-mindedness, informed skepticism, and creativity. Furthermore, learning is most successful when the subject matter relates to each student’s experiences and abilities.

When designing a school garden, be sure to engage all stakeholders and foster ownership by creating a garden committee – this can take the form of either formal committee meetings like school boards, or casual lunchroom table conversations.

5. Develop Sense of Place

Gardening provides students with the chance to explore nature and the environment while cultivating an appreciation of place. Garden-related activities also allow children to discover, experiment and create, helping foster science understanding as well as other subjects.

School gardens also serve as an avenue for community members and volunteers to come together, forming new bonds while building a sense of belonging in urban areas where schools often act as the only gathering spot. This is especially valuable in urban regions where residents may only have one place where they can come together: schools.

Gardening can also teach children the value of healthy, sustainable food choices. Research has demonstrated that students participating in gardening programs experience higher increases in fruit and vegetable knowledge, preference, and intake than those who don’t garden.

6. Build Self-Confidence

School gardens give students a hands-on opportunity to develop individual skills in four domains – cognitive, psychomotor, emotional and social development.

Garden lessons typically feature pupils taking responsibility for their own gardening work, which allows for frequent social interactions involving communication and cooperation among students.

Social competence appears to provide pupils with motivation to participate more actively in school garden classes compared to classroom lessons.

Even without much outdoor space available at your school, creating a garden is still achievable with indoor greenhouses, window boxes and even parking lot conversion. Enlist community members as helpers while encouraging parents to participate. When people see that their hard work has paid off with delicious vegetables and fruits from their garden efforts, their desire to participate may increase further; building self-esteem in this way.

7. Enhance Academic Performance

School gardens help enhance academic learning for students by giving them hands-on garden experience as an extension of classroom lessons. Students can study plant growth rates and patterns for science, observe and measure plants for math, design and build structures during construction projects or learn nutrition during food production.

One study discovered that participation in garden activities improved teachers’ work quality while offering them a means to unwind and relax. Unfortunately, respondents expressed concern about not having enough funding for garden infrastructure such as fencing and raised beds as well as additional staff to maintain them. Engaging parents and community members in garden activities may help prevent theft and vandalism while making your garden an even more inviting space.

8. Develop Leadership Skills

Gardening can help build leadership skills among students when they collaborate on group projects together, such as working on a school garden committee. Working on such committees builds teamwork, communication and organizational abilities while being made up of students passionate about gardening will allow your garden to grow and flourish! Bringing diverse students into gardening activities also plays a vital role in its development and flourishing.

Engaging parents and community members early is crucial to the success of any school garden project, creating a sense of ownership over it and increasing participation long term.

School gardens can help teach children healthy eating habits. An innovative garden-enhanced nutrition education curriculum developed by Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr and Jennifer Morris is Nutrition to Grow On; it uses gardens as the hub of nine lessons covering science, math, language arts, social studies, environmental science as well as nutrition and health education.

9. Build Community

Garden spaces can serve as social gathering places for students, parents, teachers and community members to gather. Gardens provide an ideal venue for developing ideas to build community spirit and foster strong ties within local neighborhoods. Even adults can gather to play slots online together in a same place thro’

School gardens can transform classrooms into outdoor learning laboratories, giving students hands-on lessons in virtually all subjects. School gardens also help teach responsibility, patience, pride, and self-confidence among its participants. Gardens offer contact with nature while satisfying basic psychological needs such as decisional autonomy, competence, relatedness and self-determination. To start your garden, identify potential locations. Next, have your soil tested for nutrients and lead levels to make sure it can support healthy plant life growth. An organic soil amended with well-aged compost is ideal. Heavy metals, petroleum byproducts or animal waste should be avoided to ensure a healthy and productive garden experience. Also consider how often your garden will need maintenance.

10. Enhance Physical Activity

Gardening provides an ideal opportunity for physical activity among students. They can get their hands dirty while working in the garden to relieve stress while simultaneously improve posture and overall physical wellbeing.

School gardens provide students with an invaluable way to gain nutrition education by connecting them to their food source. Studies have demonstrated that children who grow their own fruits and vegetables tend to consume them more.

Lock in school administrators’ support by emphasizing how the garden connects to various academic subjects and nutrition benefits. To maximize garden time, include various activity stations. Start each session off right by stretching exercises like lunges, shoulder shrugs and hamstring/quad stretches before having students rotate through various activities in groups of two. Trellises on raised beds or pockets to hang tools is another effective way of engaging garden users and increasing engagement in gardening activities.