The delight of vegetable gardening with children and grandchildren
is the joy they take in discoveries such as the taste of a fresh tomato,
the life cycle of a moth or just playing in the dirt. As we plan our spring gardens, we can consider the ways to give children of any age hands on experiences and lasting skills.
Written by JACKYE MEINECKE
We can nurture curiosity through learning experiences in the garden for every age with a bit of planning. A garden can serve as the base for studying math, geography, botany, physics, weather, literature and poetry, history, and more. Students learn to observe, record, compare, and evaluate—all critical thinking skills—through directed gardening experiences.
A garden is an opportunity to explore many scientific aspects from biology to chemistry.
A garden bed—especially the square foot model of gardening—lends itself to all kinds of hands on learning of math, including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Harvesting the garden provides many opportunities to discover weights and measures in American and European units. If the harvest is carried into the kitchen, youngsters also learn to measure solids and liquids, as well has how to multiply and divide fractions.
A garden is an opportunity to explore many scientific aspects from biology to chemistry. Studying the garden creates an excellent opportunity to learn scientific methods of research and reporting— no matter the age of the student. Observing and recording weather with rain gauges, soil thermometers, wind velocity recorders, and barometers, is a fun way to introduce curious learners to scientific methods. Whether the student is learning from observation or controlled experiment, there is much to gain in the garden.
However, education in the garden should not stop at math. Gardening has a revered place in global and national history. Food production and distribution is a critical factor in military strategy. In the flower garden, one could study the historical meaning of red poppies for Memorial Day or the rise and fall of the merchant class based on the sale of tulip bulbs in the midi-17th century. Or consider the geography of where plants grow naturally or follow bird migration paths of birds appearing in your garden.
Gardens often are a feature in short stories, novels, plays, and poetry. Whether studying the nonfiction writing of modern author Amy Stewart or enjoying a fiction novel such as a mystery by Susan Wittig Albert, the garden takes center stage. For young children, the garden is the backdrop of Beatrice Potter books. The garden provides many opportunities to encourage students to explore writing from journals to scientific reports to stories and poems. A garden has been an inspiration for many writers, inventors, and others who treasure discovery.
For centuries, classical to contemporary artists have depicted gardens in paintings, photographs, and sculptures. From Ming dynasty ink drawings to Monet’s lily paintings to Chihuly’s sparkling blown glass flowers, the beauty of the garden has endured.
Through hands-on exploration in a garden—especially with some thought and planning—children’s’ curiosity can be nurtured and directed to learning in a fun, exciting, and beneficial way that connects areas of study rather than restricting each field of learning to a narrow box, as often occurs with more traditional education practices. Like a flower opening to the sun, a garden opens the mind to the world.