Happy Valentine’s Day!
To show our love for you, we’re sharing three cute Valentine’s Day card designs you can download and print for the garden lovers in your life.
Click the images below to download your cards!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
To show our love for you, we’re sharing three cute Valentine’s Day card designs you can download and print for the garden lovers in your life.
Click the images below to download your cards!
How much do you know about the role soil plays in our lives?
Wendell Berry says, “soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life.”
It’s hard to find anything in this life not touched by soil; the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear, even the air we breathe depends on soil. That’s why it’s critical that we educate young people about the virtues of soil.
Soil education is a lesson in systems thinking. When we educate kids about the importance of soil, we teach them that by caring for the soil we are caring for the health of our planet, and all living things.
December 5th is World Soil Day and we have some great resources to support you as you teach about soil. Read on to find out more about our free film screening, composter giveaway, and soil teaching resources.
We’re hosting a FREE film screening of the Kiss The Ground Movie. Join us at 8 PM Eastern on December 5th for the film screening and Q&A with Kiss the Ground educator, Karen Rodriguez, where we will be discussing the ways that our relationship to the soil directly impacts the planet as a whole.
All registrants will receive a follow-up opportunity to request a free DVD of the Educators’ Version of this new film as well as a Soil Education Resource Pack.
Our friends at Subpod are giving away TWO Grow Bundles valued at $319 each to the KidsGardening community! Subpod is the new in-garden composting system and worm farm. It's an easy way to compost your waste and grow fresh, organic food – whether you're at home or in the classroom. One Subpod Grow Bundle includes a grow garden bed, a Subpod compost system, and a compost aerator.
KidsGardening celebrates soil every day by developing and sharing high-quality, hands-on teaching materials for you to use to teach about soils. Check out a few of the resources we love:
It’s Screen-Free Week. And KidsGardening is participating in this annual, international celebration when families, schools, and communities swap digital entertainment for the joys of life beyond the screen.
First, a question: Do you ever feel stressed out by your fast-paced life? If so, the kids in your life might too! Sadly, children these days report more anxiety, stress, and depression than in years past.
Now I am NOT trying to give you one more thing to worry about. That’s the last thing I want to do. Instead, I hope I can share a couple of super simple ways you and your kids—whether they are your own children or your students—can unwind together.
We all need opportunities to decompress from the pressures of our day. And many people turn to screens because they’re so readily available. We plop down on the couch and scroll through social media feeds or play video games. But an increasing amount of research is finding that television, video games, and advertising contribute to anxiety in children.
As a mom, I juggle a lot of responsibilities. And I have long known that as few as 15 minutes puttering around my garden will magically (although it’s not really magic, it’s science) wash away the day’s stress. I am now finding that my two-year-old son is benefitting emotionally from time in the garden each day. It’s become a fun way for us to spend some time together after work: learning, exploring, de-stressing, and all while growing food and flowers for our family.
Just being in the garden will have a number of mental health benefits. However, if you want to deepen the impact of this time spent in the garden, you can try the mindfulness activities offered below.
Mindfulness is a buzz word in the education world right now, as more and more teachers and parents understand it’s role in promoting social and emotional resilience in kids.
Writing for Greater Good Magazine, Linda Lantieri and Vicki Zakrzewski explain that mindfulness practices help, “students become aware of and then embody the connection between their emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” They are then, “better able to regulate their emotions, which then impacts things such as their behavior, stress levels, relationships, and ability to focus.”
Here are a few activities you and your children / students can do to reap even more benefits from your time in the garden. These have been adapted from a blog post by Jessica Knopke on SimpleFamilies.com.
With a busy work life and a toddler at home, I don’t have as much time as I’d like for reading. I spend a lot of time in the car though and recently listened to There Is No Such Thing As Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). I ate up every minute of the book and thought you, KidsGardening’s community of parents and educators would enjoy it as well. So I reached out to the author, Linda Åkeson McGurk with a few questions:
Emily: Do you garden with your kids? As a mother, writer, and now author of an important book on the benefits of getting kids in nature, what role do you think gardening can play in a child's life?
La: I think gardening is a wonderful way to connect children with nature and help them understand where their food comes from, as well as how they fit into the eco system. We also know that there are beneficial microbes in the soil, which can trigger “happiness hormones” in the brain and improve our mood and even help protect against anxiety and depression. This is huge considering that these mental disorders are on the rise among children. My mom is a big gardener, so growing vegetables was a natural part of my childhood. Unfortunately, I haven’t inherited her green thumb, but I try to grow a few things with my kids in our backyard every year. I don’t strive for perfection; I think the most important thing is to get out there with your kids and get your hands dirty together. I try to choose crops that are easy to grow and don’t stress too much when we have a crop failure. There are a lot of things to learn from those too!
Emily: What are your family's favorite outdoor activities in each season? How have these changes over the years?
Linda: When my kids were little my main focus was to make sure they had time for unstructured outdoor play every day. During the week, that typically meant getting outside in the backyard and just doing whatever my kids wanted to do – climb a tree, explore the creek, or play in their “mud kitchen.” This type of free play outdoors offers everything a child needs in the early years and even today, at ages 7 and 10, this is what my kids do outside a majority of the time, all year round. On the weekends, when we have more time, we may go for a hike or bike ride, have a picnic at the park or tend to the garden during the warmer months. In the winter, we enjoy sledding, downhill skiing and hiking. How we recreate outdoors actually hasn’t changed that much, but what has changed is the girls’ mobility. From hiking with one baby in a carrier, I now have two children who are both very mobile by foot, ski and bike, which makes things a lot easier.
Emily: Sometimes kids drag their feet when asked if they want to play outside. In your book you acknowledge that even your girls, who grew up spending time outdoors from a young age will still protest. What advice would you give to parents and educators who feel discouraged by this?
I think the most important thing is to make outdoor play a part of your daily rhythm, so that the kids will come to expect it. I’ve always been pretty firm with my kids that we go outside every day, regardless of the weather, even if it’s just for a little while. I also talk to them a lot about why we do it, and now that they’re older the health aspects are ingrained in them. My advice is to stay positive and not give up - a lot of time the hardest part is just getting out the door. My kids rarely protest anymore, but when they do I can usually convince them by suggesting that we play a game of tag or hide and seek. Kids usually want to be where their parents are, so if we go out with them and show that we’re excited about it, they can usually be won over.
Emily: We know that getting outside is easier for some families and communities than it is for others. Where I live in Vermont, it is very easy. For my friends who live in densely populated cities, it is much more difficult. What are your thoughts on how we address these barriers? What are some small steps teachers and parents can take?
As parents we can only do so much to ensure that our kids get enough outdoor play every day; it has to be a community effort. Many kids spend the majority of their day with other caregivers – for example at daycare or school – so it’s absolutely crucial to get others on board as well. Bringing about change in schools and other institutions won’t be easy, but there are examples of schools where a single passionate teacher or administrator has made a big difference by creating a school garden, a natural play space or an outdoor classroom, or by advocating for more recess or taking the students to the forest once a week. Use these successful cases as a starting point for your own school and see if and how they can be replicated. Creating these types of opportunities for nature connection at school is even more important in bigger cities, where green spaces can be few and far between. I also think we need to rethink nearby nature, and by that, I mean that we should do a better job of utilizing all the little pockets of wild spaces that can be found in cities as well. Kids don’t need manicured parks to have a good time outside, they just need places where they can run wild.
Linda Åkeson McGurk is a journalist and author of the parenting memoir There Is No Such Thing As Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids (from Friluftsliv to Hygge). She believes that the best childhood memories are created outside, while jumping in puddles, digging in dirt, catching bugs and climbing trees. McGurk blogs about connecting between children and nature at Rain or Shine Mamma, and hopes to inspire other parents and caregivers to get outside with their children every day, regardless of the weather. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.
Moms and kids are a powerful force. I became a mother in 2015 and right away issues I was most passionate about became causes I wanted to advocate for on behalf of my son, and other vulnerable little people. More than anything, I want clean air for my son to breathe, healthy soils to grow our food and fiber in, a livable climate for plants and animals, and clean, uncontaminated water to drink and grow crops. These are the most basic things, but they are not a guarantee in so many places.
I’m not without hope, though. So many kids I meet in my role at KidsGardening understand the importance they play in ensuring natural resources are sustained into the future. In my experience, teachers and parents are working hard to instill in young people an understanding of what it means to live within the planet’s limits.
And I am so proud that KidsGardening is a part of this solution. We enable educators to establish and sustain youth gardens as a tool to foster environmental stewardship. For over 35 years, we have seen firsthand that youth garden programs grow a generation of young people who understand how to live responsibly in local and global communities.
Each year, KidsGardening surveys our grant winners. We’ve learned that 91% of educators we serve notice gardening results in improved environmental attitudes in students. How do these attitudes hold up over time? A study by Lohr and Pearson-Mims out of Washington State University indicated that participation in gardening activities in childhood was closely linked to appreciation and respect for nature in adulthood.
And the other thing that brings me hope? Moms. I would argue that as caretakers and nurturers of children, no one is more powerful than a parent. Individually and collectively, moms have achieved amazing things. Recently I met Kelsey Wirth, of Mothers Out Front, a grassroots coalition of moms working to ensure a livable climate for all children. Kelsey explained that Mothers Out Front is, “led by our local teams of dedicated volunteers, who determine their community's needs and choose their own goals. We empower them with training, coaching, and ideas to move their communities and states from dirty to clean energy. Team members come together to learn, strategize, meet with elected and business leaders, testify at hearings, and plan and show up at rallies and other events.”
And of course, in many cases, parents are the primary educators for their children. We can lead by example and show our kids how critical it is to protect natural resources by advocating for the environment with groups like Mothers Out Front, choosing environmentally friendly products, switching to clean energy, recycling, composting, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation to school and work.
And of course, one of the most important things you can do to raise a young environmental steward is to spend time in nature. Those positive associations children make with the natural world are what will propel them to be caretakers of it as adults. Want a fun and practical outdoor family activity? May we recommend gardening?
What can you do?
Rachel Carson is one of my very favorite authors. In “The Sense of Wonder”, she recounts introducing her nephew Roger to the countless curiosities they encountered together in nature, “We have let Roger share in our enjoyment of things people ordinarily deny children because they are inconvenient, interfering with bedtime, or involving wet clothing that must be removed or mud that has to be cleaned off the rug.” She reflects that these moments experiencing the beauty and wonder of nature would “mean more to him in manhood than the sleep he was losing.” She wrote this in 1956.
Today, as I speak with educators I am hearing the term, “experience poor”, come up more and more. They tell me that their students are lacking the real-life experience that we know provides a critical frame of reference for understanding what they are being taught in school. And increasingly, classroom teachers are being asked to do so much that they feel they don’t have the time and resources to get children out of their chairs to learn through experience.
Yet we know—from so many studies—that we humans learn best through experience. Hands on education that is rooted in the local community fosters students’ connection to place, boosts academic achievement and improves environmental, social, and economic vitality.
Imagine trying to learn to master a recipe without a kitchen, measuring cups, or even ingredients. Or harder yet, imagine trying to learn that recipe with no prior cooking experience. This is what we are currently asking our children to do. They may memorize the recipe for a period of time, but they won’t learn to cook.
So many teachers I speak with are eager to help their students engage more in their lessons. And they know that inquiry, exploration, and experience are key to driving up those engagement levels. It might get messy. It might take longer. But hands-on learning is so worth the effort.
KidsGardening has launched a new grant program this year that will make it a little easier for teachers to encounter nature with their students. Our partner, The Klorane Botanical Foundation, is sponsoring a grant in Chicago, IL, Kansas City, KS, Los Angeles, CA, New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, and Washington, DC to build or expand garden classrooms students can get outdoors and learn with their hands in the dirt. The Budding Botanist Grant will help our youngest citizens learn about plants, explore their world and inspire them to take care of the life they discover in their local ecosystems.
Rachel Carson also said that, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder…he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it.” Let us each try to be that adult for at least one child and provide more opportunities for her/him to get out into the world and experience the joy of learning.
Do you ever wonder where your creativity went? I am constantly amazed by the ideas children come up with when faced with a creative challenge. We adults rarely seem as clever.
I have a lot of theories on why we appear to think less creatively as we grow into adulthood. I could share these with you. Or I could tell you what one teacher in Pennsylvania is doing to inspire and reward creativity in her students. She sets a great example for educators across the country who hope to cultivate creativity in their students and empower children to take action on issues and challenges that matter to them.
This year Cynthia Kravatz and her students at Coebourn Elementary School in Brookhaven, Pennsylvania focused on “Going Green. ” They used KidsGardening’s Carton 2 Garden Contest to create a tangible product to demonstrate what they were learning and share their new knowledge with family and friends. For this, they were awarded with the Contest’s Sustainability Award.
With a focus on pollinators and a desire to help support declining pollinator populations, students created Mason Bee houses from repurposed milk cartons for their schoolyard and community members. Close to two hundred bee boxes were spread throughout the community in garden areas. Cynthia says, “Students were eager to hang them in their gardens after learning that Mason males never sting and Mason females only sting if threatened or squished.”
The Mason Bee house project is a STEM project. Students started by examining a purchased bamboo Mason Bee house. Later they watched video clips about Mason Bees and did further research about the life cycle and habits of these bees. Groups designed prototypes using only cartons. They shared their prototypes with some local gardeners who have certified pollinator gardens and experience building wooden Mason Bee houses. From them, the students learned that their prototype houses were not deep enough and needed an overhang to protect the bees from weather. Students used this information to redesign a bee house that better fit the needs of Mason Bees.
Through this project, students learned very important lessons about biodiversity and sustainable practices. Participation in this project allowed students to hone their problem-solving skills on real world problems and gave them the chance to positively impact their environment.
“Pollinators have become a buzz topic in the gardening world,” says Cynthia. “I feel our problem-solving work with recycled cartons connects students to real world needs far beyond memorizing the parts of a flower.”
About the Carton 2 Garden Contest
Evergreen Packaging and KidsGardening are proud to host the national Carton 2 Garden Contest! Open to public and private schools, contest winners are be selected based on their implementation of an innovative garden creation featuring creative and sustainable uses for repurposed milk and juice cartons.
Have you ever heard of Zinnia Weybright? I hadn’t until last month. She has a huge fan club in her hometown of Santa Monica, California. Zinnia is an eleven year old committed to growing community through the garden.
Every Sunday since 2012, Zinnia has spent a few hours working in her local community garden to provide fresh, healthy, local produce to the city’s homeless through donations to food shelves and meal sites.
That’s right – at the ripe old age of six Zinnia joined the Harvesting and Cleaning Crew at the Ocean View Farms Community Garden in Santa Monica in order to pick and prep produce and flowers for those less fortunate. Recipients of the produce say that they look forward to receiving the donations from Zinnia each week because they can tell she has prepared the food with care and love.
Zinnia is special, no doubt about that. Yet many young people who garden are also more inclined to community service. In fact, sixty-nine percent of the educators KidsGardening works with report an increase in the community spirit of their students as a result of engaging in garden-based learning. If that’s not a reason to get more kids learning through the garden, I don’t know what is.
It was an honor to meet Zinnia last month and present her with a 2017 Give Back to Grow Award. I am certain this is probably just one of the many awards this vibrant young leader will receive in her lifetime. And I so look forward to hearing about the many ways she’ll continue to make the world a better place through gardening.
The Give Back to Grow Award is awarded annually to youth who show a keen interest in gardening and community spirit. The Award is part of the Scott’s Miracle Gro’s Gro1000 program. The Gro1000 program is founded on the premise that “When people come together in a garden, or gather on a green space, something good happens: the world and their place in it becomes more amazing, more special, more powerful. With urban and economic development at an all-time high, we desperately need to protect and grow our collective connection to nature, to the environment and to each other.”
I can remember very clearly the day I realized gardening had changed me. I was picking tomatoes when I saw a huge green tomato hornworm with little white bumps on it lying dormant on a leaf. A few months earlier I’d planted dill in hopes of attracting beneficial insects like wasps that are parasitic on hornworms.
A female parasitic wasp had laid her eggs just under the skin of the hornworm. These eggs hatched under the hornworm's skin and the larvae fed inside on the hornworm. When ready to pupate they chewed their way out through the skin, spun their cocoons attached to the hornworm's back, and shortly after that, emerged as adult wasps looking for new hornworms to parasitize.
Needless to say, this blew my mind.
It was then that I realized that gardening had completely changed the way I viewed nature and its complex but beautiful processes and systems.
All without my knowing, gardening had helped me slow down and notice things. As a result, I was more mindful of my surroundings. Being more mindful brought all kids of benefits like appreciation and gratitude—something I wrote about in an earlier post. It also cultivated my natural sense of curiosity and wonder.
All of these traits have served me well over the years—with plants and people alike. And when I feel like I need to re-connect and restore I head straight for the garden. It is such a gift to have a garden to retreat to. I wish this for everyone.
April is KidsGarden Month. And we’re inviting you to tell us how #GardeningChangesLives.
Share your story:
When I was in elementary school in the early 1980s, environmental education was focused on catastrophes like toxic waste and rainforest destruction. While these issues remain relevant for our society at large, many have come to realize that global problems of this nature were too difficult for kids to wrap their minds around, and harder still understand what we, as young children, could do about them.
Instead, many educators have shifted to place-based education—of which garden-based learning is a part. Place-based education is hands-on, real world learning that uses the local environment to help kids understand the natural world around them and their place in it.
One place-based solution that my teachers successfully engaged my classmates and me in was recycling. It was just beginning to gain widespread adoption in the United States, and I remember that my classmates and I felt empowered and proud to be able to actually do something to contribute to the better health of our planet. We created a recycling club called the Planeteers (probably breaking some kind of trademark law) and made green t-shirts adorned with a planet encircled by smiling children holding hands.
My friends and I were pretty effective at changing our parents’ behaviors at home as well, bringing home facts and figures about the importance of recycling and getting our parents to sort plastics from metals and cardboard.
These days, recycling is well accepted at home, with curbside pick-up and no-sort bins in many communities. It’s a bit harder to do in schools and institutions, however. And many schools are still working to improve their recycling rates.
At KidsGardening, we like to engage kids in educational activities that empower them to be part of the solution. And I personally believe that for young kids, presenting global issues alongside things they can actually do to help is less anxiety inducing than discussing deforestation, for example, in the abstract.
One such program is our Carton 2 Garden contest. For three years now, we have partnered with Evergreen Packaging to recognize more than a dozen outstanding projects from across the country, featuring innovative creations designed by K-12 students and educators by re-purposing milk and juice cartons from their school cafeterias to engage students in hands-on, garden-related educational experiences.
We’re proud of this program and the young participants. It is empowering kids to think about their role in protecting the planet. And these kids are taking action: the percentage of schools that recycled milk and juice cartons prior to the Carton 2 Garden contest is just 30%. After participating in the Carton 2 Garden contest the percentage of schools that recycle milk and juice cartons is 80%! The percentage of schools that continue to save milk and juice cartons to use for special projects after the Carton 2 Garden Contest is 90%!
This program reaches nearly 7,000 students and educators across the nation every year and rewards the most innovative with cash prizes to support educational garden programs in their schools.
This type of positive reinforcement for innovative, solution oriented, pro-social behavior is exactly what kids need more of.
Would you like to participate in the 2017 Carton 2 Garden Contest? It’s not too late. Download your entry kit here and engage your students in an age appropriate place-based, environmental education.