Education in the Garden
It has been an eventful week in our school gardens! The nice weather means we’ve been outside at last, feeling the sunshine on our faces and cleaning up our gardens for spring. Hauling mulch, picking up trash, hanging bird feeders—something about the flurry of activity has turned my students into unstoppable chatterboxes.
The fresh air has made the line between reality and imagination a little fuzzy…
Me: “What kinds of animals visit your garden?”
Class (in unison): “Zebras!!!”
Me: “Why do we want to pick up trash in the garden? What might eat the trash?”
Other Kindergartener: “And they’d put a spell on us!!”
Preschooler, holding what is clearly a big stick: “Look at this huge worm I found!”
Other preschooler: “I have four baby worms. They tickle me all day long.”
…and sometimes, while they like the idea of gardening, they approach actual gardening with trepidation…
Me: “Today we’re making bird feeders!”
Me: “Next, we’re going to plant some flowers!”
2nd grade class: “Yay!”
(mad scramble for flower seeds and pots)
2nd grader: “Um, excuse me, does that mean we have to touch the dirt?”
Kindergarteners, holding their cups full of worms, waiting for instructions.
Me: “Ok, pour your worms out on the table to look at them.”
Kindergarteners pour them out, see the worms, and run away screaming: “AHHHHHH!”
…but most of the time, I think my students should probably be running the world.
Kindergartener: “We have a garden at school just in case something bad happens and then we have food.”
7th grader: “If you grow your own food, you know it don’t have pesticides.”
Other 7th grader: “And you won’t get yellow stuff on your heart and have a stroke.”
Preschooler: “I know that dirt made my lunch.”
2nd graders, overcoming their fear of dirt, chanting: “God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt. Ahhhhh, it’s wet! God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt!”
4th grader, making a plant label: “Look, I put hearts on the part that goes underground, so the plant knows I love it.”
My favorite part about garden education is that young people can learn while being their loud, bouncing-around selves. What they lack in technical gardening knowledge, they make up for with love and enthusiasm. With all that positive energy, the plants will be taller than the kids in no time.
-Carolyn Cosgrove-Payne, Gateway Greening Youth Educator