Hands-On Learning, school garden

Gardening with kids

I grew up with parents that were raised in the country. My father’s family absolutely depended on their garden in order to eat. I, on the other hand, was raised on military bases in different parts of the world, but whenever we were stateside, my parents gardened. As the youngest, I often didn’t have to do much work in the garden (which didn’t make my siblings happy), so my memories of the garden are associated with zinnias, tomatoes, sunshine, and homemade plum jam…all good things.

When I was in third grade in El Paso, I had a teacher named Mrs. Hogg (really), and she lived in the neighborhood on a corner lot. The yards in El Paso are surrounded by fences made of large rocks and concrete and are probably about five feet tall and nine or so inches thick. I remember that I would walk past her house just because she had a huge vegetable garden in back. I would find a rock that stuck out and step on it and then grab hold of the top and pull myself up so that I could peer over her fence and look at her garden. It was lovely. I remember in particular that she grew corn and that it seemed there was absolutely no grass… just veggies, flowers, and fruit trees.

I guess it’s no wonder that I love gardens and gardening. And you know what? Kids do too. They are so curious about the natural world, and there are a plethora of lessons that can be taught through gardening.

Of course, the most obvious things that can be taught are life science objectives. This lambs ear plant is one of the kids favorite because of the soft leaves. They learn that the silvery fuzzy hairs are actually an adaptation that allows the plant to survive in full sun by reflecting some of the light off of the leaf. Pretty cool! Added bonus: we turned the leaf over and found a very strange insect (which just so happens to tie in with our learning on classifying animals).

We saw this little fellow, and my kiddos were downright giddy. Several were jumping up and down and hollering “Mrs. Hester….mimicry!”. How’s that for a real life connection?

How about observing first hand the interactions between living things in the natural world?

…Or the fruiting stage in a flowering plant’s life cycle?

I could really go on and on about the benefits of gardening with your students, but I will just leave you with one picture that (for me) sort of sums it up….

These little guys are observing, thoughtful, and engaged.

Are you thinking that this may be something you just might be interested in implementing? Stay tuned, because next week I will post the first of three articles on how to get started with a school garden. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair, but it can be done!

Note: This is an updated blog post… click here for the next post in this series.

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