These past couple weeks have been a crazy whirlwind of traveling to schools all over the city to deliver plants and seeds and assist teachers and students with planting their schoolyard gardens. Tiring? Yes! But, so much fun and incredibly inspiring!
I love the obvious aspects of a planting season – being in the garden after a looooonng cold winter, introducing students to the vegetables they’ll be growing, working the soil and discovering worms, seeing the excitement as a student sprinkles a handful of seeds into a row, and so much more!
What I want to talk about today though, are the not so obvious perks and lessons that can come from having a schoolyard garden. This list is long and you will probably discover more each day you spend in your garden, but here are a few of my favorites.
Responsibility. Gardening is such a great way to teach kids how to be responsible. It provides the opportunity to assign tasks and chores to your students each week throughout the season, such as watering, weeding, checking for pests, and harvesting.
Teamwork. Encouraging students to work together in the garden can promote teamwork and opportunities to practice communication skills. Since there are generally many more students than there are plants/seeds to put in the ground, I pair students up when we’re planting and ask them to share the task I’ve given them with their partner.
Tactile Perception and Fine Motor Skills. Using our hands to make rows in the soil or using our thumbs and pointer fingers to sprinkle a row of tiny seeds, provides a fun way for students, especially some of our youngest gardeners, to practice tactile and motor skills.
Kindness. I always ask kids if they know the 3 things a plant needs to grow – sun, soil, and water. When I presented this question to students at Christot’s Montessori, they replied, “plants need love to grow.” Let the awwwws commence. Remembering that your garden is a living thing, makes for easy conversations about how plants, just like people, appreciate kindness – not pulling them from the ground, giving them water to drink, pulling the weeds around them so that they have room to grow, not stepping on them, and so on.
In short, remember to think outside the box (or raised bed) when it comes to your Schoolyard Garden. There are numerous lessons to be learned from gardening, so get out there and have fun! While you’re there, please water and pull a weed.