We all know gardens are fantastic learning laboratories in which to teach kids about nutrition, the environment, science, math, and many other subjects. But on this Valentine’s Day, as I have love on my mind (and in my heart) I’m reflecting on all the ways that gardening also nourishes the soul. So today, I’d like to talk about the mushy stuff (and no, I don’t mean compost).
Empathy. Compassion. Pride. Teamwork. These are a few of the words that come to mind when I think about how we use gardens to teach and grow love in kids.
I’ve written before about the importance of allowing children time outside to develop empathy for and a connection to nature. Watching and caring for a delicate plant as it grows from seed to harvest instills in kids a sense of empathy and compassion, of the interconnectedness of nature and their responsibility (as a part of it) to care of it.
Children take great pride in the process of nurturing their plants, in seeing the fruits of their labor, and being able to share their bounty with others. They learn to believe in themselves and to trust their instincts. We’ve heard from many educators that it’s often the children with the most difficulty in classroom settings who really thrive in the garden. This can be a tremendous source of self-confidence for children who might otherwise be struggling in school.
Working together and sharing responsibilities in the garden also teaches kids about cooperation and teamwork. It teaches communication, as well as respect for the diverse skills and perspectives that others can bring when working toward a common goal.
Empathy. Compassion. Pride. Teamwork. You’re nurturing these traits in kids just by providing an opportunity for them to get outside and learn in the garden, whether or not that’s the intention of the lesson. And for that, we thank you. The world could use a little bit more love right about now.
I want to send you off this Valentine’s Day with a note we received from a nine-year-old gardener during last year’s KidsGarden Month Dream Big contest:
In my dream garden, we grow love. Love in the flowers that makes everyone happy with their beautiful smell and colors. Love that grows in delicious and healthy veggies and fruit. My dream garden is for everyone, because everyone is happiest in a garden, and one of my dreams is to make the world a happier place for all forms of life. Kids will run around and feel free. Babies and caterpillars are happily crawling around my garden. They will both eat and grow big!! Then they will both take naps when they are full in beds made of lavender.
I don’t know about you, but a bed made of lavender sounds like my dream garden.