School gardening has become very popular during the coronavirus health crisis, with families and teachers saying its hands-on lessons can be used to teach many subjects.
Finding the money to keep a school garden going can be tough. Some experts and teachers, however, are finding creative ways to make it work.
Susan Hobart is a retired elementary school teacher at Lake View Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin
She oversees the school’s large garden with 12 raised beds.
“Gardens are a great way to get kids outside with a purpose. With gardens, kids get to see a beginning, a middle and an end to their project, with tangible results,” she said.
Tangible means easily seen or recognized.
Hobart added that the gardens help calm “the kids and give them a whole different perspective they wouldn’t have just sitting at desks.”
Each spring, the school’s program gets plant seedlings grown through a training program at a nearby prison. A church group comes during spring break to prepare the garden for the children’s return. Over the summer, a volunteer takes care of the garden.
“If we had to buy the seedlings, they’d cost $3 each and we could never afford that,” Hobart says.
“If you take a look at your relationships and the community around you and then all the wider networks out there, there are plenty of creative ways to find help.”
Toby Adams directs the New York Botanical Garden’s Edible Academy, where schoolchildren learn about growing food.
Adams said that interest in school gardens increased after Michelle Obama planted a garden at the White House and invited schoolchildren to help. Adams added that there has been another increase in interest since the coronavirus health crisis started.
School gardens can teach lessons in health, science, social studies, and even arts classes.
“Giving kids the opportunity to move outside, get their hands dirty, and find worms, especially if their teachers are excited about it — that’s huge,” Adams said.
For schools without space for even a small garden, turning to local botanical gardens and parks can sometimes be the answer.
“We are located in the Bronx, which is basically wall to wall six- story" apartments. "There’s limited space, and vandalism, and it’s hard to find a good place to gather 30 kids, not to mention issues like water access,” says Adams.
Adams said that gardens do not have to take up a large area outdoors. “It could be a container garden... there are all kinds of gardens and ways it can work,” he said.
Ron Finley supports teaching city kids about seeds and growing. His non-profit Ron Finley Project aims to “change the culture around food.”
Finley remembers being amazed as a boy when he witnessed how “a seed ... destroys itself to become food."
“Having a garden in a school is just as important as any other education,” Finley says.
Finley used the term reverence, or honor or respect that is shown, when talking about gardening.
“The act of gardening teaches you where our food source comes from and teaches you to have a reverence for soil. If kids have a reverence for soil, they have a reverence for themselves and respect for this planet... Gardening is not a hobby, it’s a life skill. I see this as one of the most valuable lessons of humanity.”
I’m John Russell.
Katherine Roth reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
Words in This Story
elementary – adj. of or relating to elementary school; relating to or teaching the basic subjects of education
perspective – n. a way of thinking about and understanding something (such as a particular issue or life in general)
worm – n. a long, thin animal that has a soft body with no legs or bones and that often lives in the ground
vandalism – n. the act of deliberately destroying or damaging property
hobby – n. an activity that a person does for pleasure when not working