"It was important for our students to be involved in the whole process, from planning what to plant to laying gopher wire, preparing and amending the soil, weeding, composting, harvesting, watching plants go to seed, and giving produce back to the community," explains Rachel Yañez, Chair of the Life Lab Committee at Brook Knoll Elementary.
"The outdoor classroom is one of our school's outstanding features," says Principal Lucille Smith. Known as the Lamb's Yard in honor of the school mascot, "the garden provides for creative and effective Environmental Education instruction for all students, and it enriches language arts, math, science, and social studies. In addition to enhancing instruction in core subjects, the garden provides a natural place for children to wonder and discover.
"While harvesting sweet potatoes this fall, a 5th-grade student said, 'getting dirty is fun -- I can't wait to come back tomorrow,'" shares teacher Tate Little of Carrboro Elementary School in Carrborro, NC. "Another student remarked, 'I don't usually like tomatoes but these are delicious!'" What wonderful confirmation the garden program is making an impact.
"This community is riddled with problems, including a high crime rate," says Vice Principal Adrienne Hill. "One of our goals is to bring the community back into the school and to place the school out in the community."
"Our 44 kindergarten students are exuberant five-year-old risk-takers," says Center for Inquiry teacher Jennifer Barnes. "They aren't afraid of dirty, hard labor and they eagerly work to solve problems that come their way."
At Archbishop Damiano School in Westville Grove, New Jersey, educators use the garden to bring classroom lessons to life for students with significant cognitive and physical impairments. Gardening is a "multi-dimensional activity that lends itself to a variety of educational opportunities," says Dr. Gregory Zink, Assistant Principal. "The garden provides a real-life setting for math, science, and language arts instruction across all grade levels."
Growing apple (Malus domestica) trees is a gratifying undertaking, though it requires some space and effort. Here are the basics to provide a better understanding of planting and caring for these favorite fruit trees:
Obesity is a nationwide problem, especially among youth. Research shows that increased fruit and vegetable consumption is a viable strategy for fighting obesity and provides additional health benefits, as well. The Got Dirt? garden initiative, funded by a three-year grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, is working to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in children ages 2-12 by facilitating the creation of youth gardens at schools and childcare facilities throughout Wisconsin.
Many people have heard of farm-to-school projects; now it's time for farm-to-preschool! Vegetable gardening with children is a great way to connect them to agriculture, and the garden is a place where perfection doesn't matter and mistakes can and should happen. Children's gardens are experiential, hands-on, and messy. Gardening teaches young children that actions have consequences, that food comes from the earth before it reaches the store shelf, and the activity reconnects our youngsters to nature.
Kids Gardening and the National Gardening Association actively work with schools and communities across the country to provide educational resources and build gardens to promote health, wellness, and sustainability.