Getting kids engaged in the garden is more important now than ever.
Children ages 10-16 spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in physical activity.(1) This physical inactivity has important consequences; it contributes to the fact that nearly 18% of all children and teens in the United States are obese. And one third of all children born after 2000 are predicted to suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives.(2) Related to this, almost a third of children reported that in the last month they had experienced a physical health symptom associated with stress, such as headaches, stomachaches or trouble falling or staying asleep.(3)
Many of these challenges facing our kids can also be seen as opportunities to engage more children in garden-based learning.
The impact of garden-based education is clear. Numerous studies have shown that children engaged in garden programs show improved health outcomes, perform better in school, have superior social and emotional capabilities, and more pro-environmental attitudes.
Studies find that time spent outdoors reduces health problems in children.(4) Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables(5) or express a preference for these foods.(6)
Just being outside in the garden is an antidote to stress. Adolescents report calm and happy feelings and ease in connecting with their peers and adult mentors while gardening.(7)
The benefits of gardening carry over into the classroom. Fifth grade students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests than students without garden curriculum.(8) Studies in Indiana and Louisiana also found greater science achievement gains among gardening students compared to control groups.(9)
Gardening helps to build a sense of community and belonging, both within the school and with the broader community. Parent involvement, shown to enhance student achievement, increases at schools with garden programs.(10) When third to fifth grade students who participated in a one-year gardening program filled out a survey of life skills, they showed a significant increase in self-understanding and the ability to work in groups compared to nonparticipating students.(11)
Cultivating plants also helps to cultivate an ethic of stewardship for the earth. Second and fourth grade students in a school gardening program in Texas showed significantly more gains in pro-environmental attitudes than students in a control group, and the more outdoor experiences they had, the more positive their attitudes.(12) In an assessment of an intergenerational gardening project, students expressed an increased understanding of ecology, interconnections in nature, and responsibility to care for the environment.(13)
There is no better time than today to begin cultivating young people who are environmentally conscious, community-minded, healthy, and empowered to work together to make this world a better place. The data shows that gardens are a learning lab for many of these skills.
For 34 years, KidsGardening.org has helped grow a movement, supporting more than 10,500 learning gardens and reaching an estimated 1.5 million kids nationwide. We connect more than 100,000 educators nationwide with garden grants, curriculum, lesson plans, and inspiration to get more kids learning through the garden.
To sustain and grow this impact, we need your help. Please consider supporting the work of Kid’s Gardening and get more kids learning through the garden.
- The Alliance for Childhood, 2012
- Center for Disease Control, 2013
- American Psychological Association, January 2011
- Zajicek, 2009
- Canaris, 1995; Hermann et al., 2006; Libman, 2007; McAleese & Rankin, 2007; Pothukuchi, 2004
- Lineberger & Zajicek, 2000; Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002
- Pevec, 2011
- Klemmer, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2005
- Dirks & Orvis, 2005
- Alexander, North, & Hendren, 1995
- Robinson & Zajicek, 2005
- Skelly & Zajicek, 1998
- Mayer-Smith, Bartosh & Peterat, 2007
- How I Grew to Love Gardening
- Big Seeds for Little Hands
- School Garden Tip #2: My Favorite Tools
- Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ Innovative Children’s Garden
- Fork in the Road takes on Jr. Iron Chef
- Soil Microbes: Helping Your Tiny Garden Helpers
- School Garden Tip #1: Create a Sense of Ownership
- Growing Young Environmentalists
- Creative Connections for the Snowbound Garden Educator