Friday, July 16, 2010

How does your garden grow?

The latest lunchtime routine in our house is for J to have a PB & J picnic in the living room, watching DVR'ed Sesame Street, while I get some "me" time (or, more often, some baby time!).

Today's episode featured Mother Goose's Mary Mary (quite contrary) who planted a flourishing garden surrounding Oscar the Grouch's trash can abode. Aside from drawing smiles and compliments, the garden also provided opportunities for learning: reciting the nursery rhyme as well as discussing what gardens need in order to bloom.

It reminded me of this article I read recently in School Library Journal, discussing a new initiative in schools to incorporate gardening into the curriculum. According to a recent study from the U.K., gardening in schools encourages a healthy, active lifestyle, teaches teamwork and responsibility, and amazingly also "help[s] increase scientific knowledge and understanding, as well as improve[s] literacy and numeracy".

An independent research organization surveyed 1300 teachers and conducted in-depth observations of 10 schools to evaluate the impact of gardening in school. Results of the studies were incredibly positive. Teachers felt that gardening provided an opportunity to give their lessons a hands-on, real-world perspective, which "improved students' readiness to learn, encouraged them to take greater control of their own learning, and helped them become more active in seeking knowledge and solving problems".
I hope this kind of creative curriculum development is a growing (ha ha) trend in American education. Certainly, there is much more discussion these days about meeting kids where they are: experimenting with various teaching methods to aid students who may not learn in a traditional classroom setting. It seems that our public schools are taking cues from the success of more non-traditional forms of education like Reggio Emilia and Montessori.

One teacher interviewed in the study noted that gardening provided a positive contrast from the traditional teaching environment, which can be "frustrating for those who have difficulty focusing or other barriers to learning".

An inspiring book on this topic, and one that my husband uses with his middle schoolers each year, is Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. It is a simple, yet moving story of how a community garden in a low-income neighborhood changes many individuals' lives. I highly recommend it--actually, all of Fleischman's books are gems. He's one of those authors who write with such beautiful simplicity that his characters and stories remain prominently with
you for a long time.

I hope you are enjoying some great summer reads as well as sampling some tastes of the season from a local garden. If you have thoughts on gardening, especially with children, please share!


Heather said...

Thanks for writing this! I wasn't aware of that UK study, but it makes sense that children would become better learners in the classroom (& out) due to gardening. I'm looking forward to gardening with my son when he's a toddler. Cute pic, by the way!

casey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
casey said...

Thanks for writing this Katie! The school where I work has a community garden now and many classes take advantage of the space to plant class plants, weed the garden, and spend time outdoors. Like the characters in "Seedfolk" the students find how much they have in common when they work together on a common task.