Food is important — who can argue with that? Aside from teaching kids the importance of nutrition and eating healthy, kids can benefit from learning about gardening in school.
School gardening programs are shown to help kids in various ways, such as:
- Building environmental awareness
- Improving health and wellness
- Helping kids build important social and community relationships
Beyond those benefits, gardening helps kids do better in school and teaches them important life skills. Let’s take a look at some of the most important reasons schools should implement gardening programs.
Eat Your Veggies and Save the Planet
While you may have always eaten your vegetables, some kids are picky eaters. Several studies have shown that school gardens not only improve children’s ability to identify vegetables, but it also encourages children to actually eat them. That means you may not need to chop green beans into microscopic pieces, because when a kid grows something, he is more likely to want to taste what he has grown.
One study published in Health Promotion Practice concluded, “Results indicate that school gardening may affect children’s vegetable consumption, including improved recognition of, attitudes toward, preferences for, and willingness to taste vegetables. Gardening also increases the variety of vegetables eaten.”
However, you don’t need a study to tell you that eating more vegetables will lead to better health. In fact, just being outside will improve children’s health. Did you know that a bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae, which is found in soil, is known to improve mood, reduce anxiety and improve cognitive function? This can be a nice perk for teachers, too.
Another study found that interactions with plants during childhood affected the attitudes and actions of people as adults. The authors of the study said, “Growing up next to natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood were associated with stronger adult attitudes and more actions.”
Science has ultimately proven that gardening produces healthy, happy kids who care about the environment.
Gardens for Life Skills
Aside from environmental impacts, gardening can actually improve your child’s performance in school as well. Consider these findings:
- A 2005 study found that kids who participated in school gardens scored “significantly higher” on science achievement tests than kids who didn’t participate in school garden activities.
- Elementary kids who participated in a one-year school garden project showed “significantly higher overall life skills scores” than kids who were not part of the program. Skills tested included communication skills, decision making skills, teamwork, leadership, self-understanding and volunteerism.
Other research has found that school gardens promote higher self-esteem, encourage a sense of responsibility and build closer family bonds. Kids with learning disabilities can also benefit from school gardens, too. The American Psychological Association cites improvements in non-verbal communication, a more positive view of order and structure, learning the value of cooperative effort, and many other benefits. Kids who have trouble paying attention in class may find they are better focused when they’re outside and have fewer discipline problems.
Grow a Strong Community
Kids working together to build and maintain a garden have a sense of pride, not only in themselves, but in their school and in what they can accomplish by working together.
Pride spills over into the home with kids caring more about how their yard looks. They may even encourage their parents to start a small garden at home, building family bonds. All of this helps build stronger communities because kids who are proud of their school and home develop an interest in what goes on around them —including an interest in their friends, neighbors and the less fortunate. Caring for others is part of what builds strong community leaders.
Isn’t it interesting how one small seed can grow into a large tree, and one small school garden can grow a strong community of caring adults? School gardens literally grow our future.