I started this as a single post about why you should garden with children but it’s turning out to be too long so I’ve turned it into a series. I personally think that gardening with children is a life-changing event. Hopefully I’ll convince you to try it out by the time I’ve reached the last post in this series. Here’s the list in no particular order:
2. Gardner in the Garden
3. Loving the Natural Environment
4.Increased Sensory Experiences
5. Food Security
6. Wonder and Discovery
7. Establish Nature Routines
8. Emergent Learning
10. Hard Work Builds Character
I’m putting nutrition first but not necessarily because I think it is more important than the rest of the list but because although we started gardening with the children by accident, we continued gardening because parents would tell us “My son would never eat vegetables before, but now I just have to say”You grow this in your garden at daycare” and then he will eat it!”.
When I was growing up in rural Saskatchewan my parents and all of my extended family had gardens. I have many memories of childhood which include “stealing” carrots from the garden, wiping them on my pants to get the dirt off and eating them or daring each other to eat the sour rhubarb, or collecting peas and poppy seeds… The point is, if my parents had simply told me to eat these things at the dinner table I would have rebelled- but having the freedom to choose and pick my own vegetables along with the illicit notion (completely made up in my own head) that this was not allowed meant that I ate foods which I might have otherwise avoided.
When we are at our community garden plot with the children every vegetable there is exciting. We don’t need to blend them and hide them in other foods so that children will eat them. The fact that they grew them from seed, nurtured and harvested them is enough to turn vegetables from a power struggle at the dinner table into an exciting discovery.
Renowned food network chef Jamie Oliver launched a television series a few years ago called Jamie’s School Dinners and later Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he discussed how children no longer recognize unprocessed fruits and vegetables yet can identify a host of fast food logos. He goes on to discuss how the ever increasing plague of childhood obesity is probably not a coincidence.
If you are interested in starting to garden with children or would like to enhance your current program there are a host of great resources available. For a bibliography of gardening books visit earthlypursuits.com. One of my favorite websites is The Edible School Yard that chronicles a school’s gardening project in Burkley, California. What I enjoy about the site is that it has a Journal of what happens in the garden as well as ready-made curriculum that you can use in your own program. If these resources don’t get you started then I recommend simply typing children’s gardening, or gardening with children into a search engine and you will find loads of great resources and inspirational projects.If you are starting from scratch I recommend to Keep It Simple and check out this comprehensive list of beginning steps available on Kidsgardening.org
For the 2010 Nature Summit one of the best received workshops was Container Gardening with Winnipeg’s own garden guru Kathryn Mackenzie. Participants learned some basics about what plants need, how to choose the right soil and the right containers. Each participant transplanted some seedlings and took samples away with them to start their own container gardens.Kathryn is currently planning new gardening workshops for Nature Summit 2012! We can’t wait! And if you have a specific area of gardening that you would like to learn more about please give us some feedback and we’d be happy to arrange a workshop at the Summit.
Next installment: Gardner in the Garden