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4 Reasons to Start a Class (or School) Garden

4 Reasons to Start a Class (or School) Garden

Gardening has surged in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. With people spending more time at home, many have turned to gardening to occupy some of that extra time. Even I succumbed to this trend; during the spring of 2020, I ended my three-year hiatus from gardening to restart the hobby that I had given up due to the increasing demands of being a working mother of three. As in-person schooling returns, emotions and anxiety levels may be heightened. Outdoor activities can be safer and healthier. Gardening isn’t just a fun hobby for home—starting a garden at school can be beneficial to both educators and students.

Here are just a few reasons to start a garden for your class or school:

Stress Reduction

Research has shown that gardening can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and improve mood. Whether the reduction in stress is caused by the dose of vitamin D from the sun, the exercise, the sense of accomplishment, or all three, students, as well as teachers, can benefit from any opportunity to reduce their level of stress.

Teachable Moments

Anytime students can connect learning to real-world experiences, retention and engagement improve. Gardening provides ample opportunity for hands-on, real-world science and math lessons; plant life cycle, photosynthesis, respiration, growth rate, and measurement are just a few topics that can be explored. Working in a class garden, even a small one, also helps students build skills, such as hard work, patience, perseverance, teamwork, and responsibility, that will support their social-emotional well-being now and later in life.

Exercise

All three of my children would spend the entire day with their screens if I let them, and I would venture to guess that many other students would do the same. With technology to entertain them indoors, many children are missing out on the exercise that comes as a byproduct of spending time outdoors. Although you can’t control what your students do when they leave class, giving them time outside to work in the garden is a small contribution to a healthier lifestyle.

Healthy Eating Habits

Researchers from Ohio State University and Cornell University found that students are five times more likely to eat vegetables if they have grown them themselves. I’ve seen this play out in my own home, as my children are always happy to eat (or at least sample) the veggies we pick from the garden but often have to be coerced to eat ones we buy from the store. Even if you aren’t growing enough veggies to provide a substantial amount of food for your students to eat, getting to sample and help grow food can pique their interest in eating more fruits and veggies.

It may seem like a daunting task to start a garden it school, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start a small container garden for your class with just a few pots, soil, and seeds. You can always expand to a more permanent garden as your experience, funding, and interest in gardening on your campus increases.

Undoubtedly, there are costs associated with starting a garden, even a small one. Here are a few ways to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses:

Visit local nurseries to ask if they can donate supplies – Many local nurseries give away used pots for free, and some may offer freebies or discounted supplies for educators.

Connect with families – You don’t have to foot the bill for your garden yourself. Often, families have items around their homes that they would be happy to donate. Make a list of what you need, and then ask parents to donate new or used supplies.

Visit discount retailers – A dollar store in my area offers gloves, seeds, pots, soil, and tools each for a dollar or less. Check these discount stores before heading to the big-box home-improvement stores so that the money you do spend can go even further.

For resources to help start your school garden, check out the school gardening section of the Farm to Child Nutrition Programs Planning Guide published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

regina.waddell's picture
Regina Waddell

Regina Waddell is a marketing manager at Edmentum and over the past 8 years has helped both educators and Edmentum employees learn how to successfully implement technology in the classroom. Before her time at Edmentum, Regina spent seven years teaching; two years helping students increase their scores on college entrance exams in the private sector, and five teaching bilingual education in Dallas, TX. Regina holds a BBA from Austin College and an M.Ed in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Texas at Arlington.