Something’s growing in the U.S., and it’s not a generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
You may have heard the news—today’s kids apparently spend less time outside than a maximum security prisoner.
Surprisingly, electronics weren’t the main reason kids didn’t get outside. “Homework” and “discomfort” with the outdoors (bugs, weather, etc) were cited as top reasons in another survey. So how can we get kids outside more between home and school (or in homeschool)?
By starting a garden! Not only will kids be excited to eat the fruits of their labor, they might actually get over their fear of creepy crawlies. Read more to learn more about how gardening benefits kids in the classroom and beyond.
1. Gardening Boosts Classroom Participation
A three-year study showed that children engaged in the classroom more after participating in a school garden. Those who were invested in the actual decision-making process (and didn’t just water and weed) for the garden showed “increased feelings of competence and ownership” that affected their overall participation in the learning experience.
Increased autonomy is especially powerful for elementary children who can take on more responsibility—for instance, by calling the local nursery to ask about various kinds of soil or seeds.
2. Gardens Enhances Your Science Curriculum
Wondering how gardening fits into the curriculum? One study showed third, fourth, and fifth-graders who participated in school gardening activities in addition to the traditional classroom-based science curriculum scored higher on the science achievement test than those taught strictly in the classroom.
If your class isn’t quite grasping science, it’s probably time to take them outside to see the way plants work in real life.
3. Gardening Doubles as Exercise
Kids today are missing out on more than just fun when they don’t go outside. They’re also at risk of gaining unhealthy weight! A UK study showed a link between a child’s limited access to outdoor space and future childhood obesity. Gardening to the rescue!
One research team discovered that gardening actually provides low-high intensity exercise for kids, depending on the task. In another study, a test school implemented a nutrition program and more physical activities including gardening. In one year, the percentage of overweight or obese children at a school dropped from 56% to an astounding 38%.
4. Gardening Makes Kids to Eat More Fruits and Veggies
School gardens can directly affect a child’s eating choices, according to a UK study conducted in 2014. 46 9- and 10-year-olds participated in cooking lessons, plant science, and working in a school garden (from initial planning to implementation). The results? A 26% boost per child in fruit and veggie consumption. Kids will always be picky eaters, but further studies show kids consume more fruits and veggies when they’re homegrown and are more adventurous in their food choices.
5. Gardening Helps Children Build Relationships
We’ve written before about how crucial social skill development is during childhood. When children garden together, they can build relationships and collaborate in a low-pressure environment. And this goes for the little ones, too! Researchers studied preschool and kindergarteners while they engaged in gardening, and they found children exercised social skills in the process. This included communication with others, emotion management, and even educational skills in math, science, and literacy.
6. Gardening Generates Environmental Responsibility
How’s a teacher supposed to incorporate environmental education experiences in the classroom on top of everything else? Well, we have a pretty easy answer, and researchers in this study tend to agree—gardening could be the answer. Over 80% of the children in the study who had experience gardening “had more positive attitudes toward the environment when compared with students that had not gardened.”
Start Your School or Home Garden Today
Ready to start your own garden with kiddos? Good for you! There are a few things that will make the process easier, whether you’re a homeschool parent or a teacher:
- Start Small—There’s no need to create the Garden of Eden in your school or backyard right off the bat. Start small with a few raised beds, and you’ll be on your way.
- Reach Out to the Community—Online or offline, there are people willing to help. Create a Facebook page and get the word out around your school. If you’re a homeschool parent and you want to get other families involved, reach out!
- Make a Maintenance Plan—Funny thing about gardens. They just keep growing and require maintenance. Make a plan before you start that will make it easy and fun for everyone to get involved and share the workload.
- Get Funded—Teachers, if your school doesn’t have the funds for a garden, read our post about your crowdfunding options, or run a fundraiser. You don’t have to pay for this yourself!
Looking for more great ideas for boosting every child’s education? “Like” ECR4Kids on Facebook! We have all kinds of fun learning ideas, promotions, and interesting articles you’ll love.