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Things to Expect & Do
Children Know Once
A New Way of
Of Blue Skies and
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The Prickly Pear:
Handle with Care!
Birds in the Garden
Watering & Plant Care
Tips for Summer
Summers Past Farms
Hot Off The Press
S C H O O L G A R D E N I N G
Children Know Once They Grow
by Becky McAneny,
Kids play in the mud, dig for worms, and catch bugs. They also roll in the
grass, hide in the bushes, and jump into piles of leaves. Not only are these
children having fun, but they are also learning about soil, water, wiggly,
crawling things, and plants.
Such activities can be developed into a teaching program for kids. Elementary
school gardens involve math, science, and English, and they are quickly becoming
an important educational tool. Some educators are seeing an improvement in
classroom interest and in test scores among children who are involved in garden
programs. Children use science and math to choose a location and design for
their garden. They also learn what they need to do to prepare their new garden
for planting and how to maintain it. They dig up worms and learn how they help
the soil, and how to use a ruler by measuring planting rows. The experience of
creating a garden enriches the lives of both the adults and the children who
work together planning and nurturing their outdoor classroom.
Once the school sets up the garden program, the fun begins!
The first step is to walk with the children around the campus and decide on a
site for the garden. They need to choose a place that will have 6 to 8 hours of
sunlight each day. One way to help them understand this concept is to show them
where shadows fall around their school. Another important site consideration is
how water will be brought to the garden. Unless a watering system is installed,
one of the adults will have to drag hoses and sprinklers to the garden when
watering needs to be done. Drainage is another important consideration. If the
garden is full of puddles after watering, not only will you have soggy plants
but you will also have soggy kids. One way to turn on the energy switch in kids
is to hand them a shovel. They can help fill in the puddles with soil so the
ground is level. Convenient access to the garden from the classrooms will be
important. Teachers and students can easily extend their classroom activities
outside when the garden is located nearby.
The next step is to design and develop the site. It's important to think small.
If the garden is too large, weeding and watering can become overwhelming tasks.
An easy way to involve the students is to get out a large sheet of brown paper
and give them crayons. Draw an outline of the garden, and help the children
decide where planting beds and paths will be located. The plan is easy to
follow after putting the design on paper.
Next, get out those shovels and rakes! It's energy time-time to clear the area
and physically mark the garden. When every child has his or her own tool to
use, they can actively show their ownership in the garden plot by digging out
weeds or raking up leaves, sticks, stones and other debris. In addition, the
children lay out the planting areas and pathways by hammering stakes in the
ground around the borders and connecting them with string. The last step in
developing the site is for everyone to use a shovel to loosen and turn the soil,
and if necessary add fertilizer or compost.
Everyone involved in the process gets excited at this point. It's time to
decide what to plant. The third major step in the development of the garden is
to have the kids look at calendars to see what plants to consider for the time
of year and location. After they have chosen their favorite vegetables, fruits
and flowers, the kids plant seeds or transplants with another round of wild
enthusiasm. The children plant rows with curves and angles that are not on the
original plan, and often the daisies are next to the cauliflower. Then after
the planting is finished, the adult "Garden Fairies" water the garden as needed,
and everyone looks forward to seeing the results. During this period the
children can help maintain the garden, and can create journals of their
successes and failures so they can learn from them.
The final step in the process, after the crops have grown, is to invite the
director of the local food bank and have the kids harvest food to donate. Then
it's time for celebrating the garden with a feast at the school! Show the
children recipes for the foods that were grown, and help them cook the fruits
(or veggies) of their labor for their families. Invite a newspaper reporter to
publicize your successful garden, and watch the children stretch their necks
with pride as they tell about the tiny carrots and the giant squash they grew
and then cooked.
When children grow an outdoor classroom, they become little scientists. They
learn patience and critical thinking. The process of planning a garden for an
elementary school fosters pride, responsibility, self- confidence, and community
spirit in everyone who takes part in this hands-on educational experience.
"A gardener is never shut out from his garden, wherever he may be. Its comfort never fails. Though the city may close about him, and the grime and soot descend upon him, he can still wander in his garden, does he but close his eyes."
-- Beverley Nichols
Kid's Garden photo courtesy of Cooperative Extension
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Information
Last Updated May 28, 2003
Author: Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
© 1997 The University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension in Maricopa County
Comments to Maricopaemail@example.com 4341 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85040,
Voice: (602) 470-8086 ext. 301, Fax (602) 470-8092