I have loved to watch plants grow, going back at least to age 7 when I laid on the ground to look up, with pure appreciation, at a spindly young tree in front of my family’s apartment in Baltimore. Beginning with bulbs and flower seeds there, I have grown houseplants and/or vegetables in just about every place that I’ve lived since that time. While I personally find gardening very therapeutic, it is also a natural laboratory and a place where children can learn all sorts of valuable skills and life lessons.
Here are just a few of the things that children can learn in a garden:
- The life cycle of plants and insects how they are able to transform over time without changing their identity. (Biology)
- How energy is neither created or destroyed; it just changes form. (Physics)
- That all soils are not the same. They have a history. (Geology)
- That fertilizer and Ph make a difference. (Chemistry)
- Fine motor skills: crumbling soil, seed handling, tying plants to a support, using hand tools, etc.
- Gross motor skills: digging, reaching, balancing, pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, etc.
- Math: measurement (space, distance, volume, height, weight, time), counting, geometry (e.g. how shadows will be cast), estimation, etc.
- Veggies always taste better when you grow them yourself. (Nutrition; Self-confidence)
- Plants do best when they are put in location where their needs for sun, water and space can best be met. (Analysis; Organization)
- There is a very close relationship between the effort that you put in and the success of the garden. (Cause/Effect; Work Ethic)
- Things will happen in their own time. (Patience; Delayed gratification)
- Sometimes your plants are damaged by forces you have no control over, like weather, disease and pests. (Resilience; Humility)
- Next year things will be even better! (Planning; Optimism; Self-determination)
There must also be studies out there showing that gardening has mental health benefits, even though they may be more difficult to measure. It’s never too early or too late to introduce children to gardening, whether at home, school or in a community garden. If you are a gardener, share your love and experience with some young people. It’s education, nature style!