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Top Ten Reasons to Garden with Children 3

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1. Nutrition

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

9. Community

10. Hard Work Builds Character

In the Garden

3. Loving the Natural Environment

In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.

– Baba Dioum

Probably the biggest challenge of gardening is facing the collective fears of the group. Staff, children and parents alike are afraid of the weather, the bugs and getting dirty. We now know that the best way to remove these fears is through immersion and preparation. Learning how to dress appropriately for the weather and being prepared to get dirty are skills that we’ve lost and will need to relearn.

  • Start your gardening project by talking to parents about what appropriate garden clothing is. We’ve included our garden and outdoor play in our Parent Manual along with a checklist of what clothing is needed for children to be prepared to play successfully outdoors. This way parents and staff alike know before they start that this is one of the values of our program.
  •  Prepare ECE’s/Teachers to include clean-up plans into their curriculum. If you’ve scheduled 20 minutes to change clothing and wash muddy garden equipment as part of your plan it will be less onerous. Include children in the clean-up process. Don’t forget to schedule for preparation and preservion of your harvest. Remember that problem solving and cleaning abilities are important life skills!
  • Begin by studying the intriguing parts of various bugs you may encounter before you head out. Then the task of finding them in the garden will be like a treasure hunt instead of invasion of the creepy crawlies. Last summer I purchased a bug vacuum and bug podz that were a major hit. Although if you have budget concerns you can absolutely make your own with paper towel rolls, duct tape and yogurt containers and you can make a  homemade bug vacuum too. Most importantly-as educators we need to suck up our own fears and model that the creatures we share the planet with have their own value and important roles instead of passing along that they are scary and gross. I have a phobia of worms but we still do vermi-composting because rationally I can accept that if I don’t model these things for my children-perhaps no one will.
  • Create opportunities for animals to enter your garden environment by making bird/bat houses, bird feeders and baths, shelters to hide under, and good spots for sitting and observing your animal friends. Take time to mimic animal behaviours, document changes and observations. Listen to bird and squirell language and imagine you understand what it all means. Learning how all plants and animals interconnect is an important part of learning to love nature. So it’s up to you to create an environment where animals are seen as playing an important role in the well-being of the whole planet rather than as dangerous pests. Here in Manitoba you can participate in Fort Whyte’s biodiversity project and earn free stuff! And if you are thinking “a school yard isn’t the place for this” check out this page dedicated to school yard habitats.
  • Be prepared for the elements. Pack insect repellent, gloves, Hats, spray bottles of water, drinking water, a tarp for shade, garbage bags and scissors for emergency rain gear… and don’t forget- children don’t melt in the rain and mud washes off!

Once you’ve removed these barriers to appreciating your garden you’ll be free to choose a sit spot and enjoy the sounds, smells and sights of your patch of green. That way you can ensure that you are teaching that the garden is a place of joy and wonder and not fear.

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