Why are early learning teachers now incorporating gardens into outdoor play environments?
Review below seven benefits that children acquire from gardening. Then, add additional benefits in the comments box.
- Gardening provides children with experiences that expand their opportunities to be active and create new ideas and worlds, as this is a place where they use sensory elements of the environment at a depth much deeper than in other types of outdoor play. Think about children digging in the dirt, smelling flowers, or touching bugs – how do these experiences open new ideas for children’s play and creativity? Think about how gardens provide children with hands-on experiences that give them opportunities to collect, smell, touch and taste.
- Gardening provides a place for children to take unique, safe risks with nature. Think about children when they see frogs in the garden, or snakes or bumble bees. These experiences, when adults support children’s curiosity, provide them with opportunities to engage in “purposeful and collaborative risk-taking” (New, Mardell & Robinson, 2015, p. 16). Think about children using real-world gardening tools – how are the children supported to learn about using gardening tools? Or related processes?
- Gardening provides children with new options for using their observation skills, and creative ideas to plan for the management of the garden. Think about what happens when children see plants that are starting to fall over. What kinds of conversations would occur to support them in figuring out what they need and could use to brace the plant? Think about what happens when children eat items from the garden that are either too ripe or not ripe? How does this become a teachable moment?
- Gardening provides children with opportunities to learn about cultures. Think about common foods that one culture may plant and eat and how they may differ from the experiences of other families. Think about families that eat fresh green tomatoes, onions and garlic as a delicacy, while other children would be familiar with eating cabbage rolls made from the cabbage grown in the garden. What other cultural learnings may result from a children’s garden? What new language/words may they learn?
- Gardening provides children with opportunities to engage in language and literacy and physical literacy experiences Think about the new types of words children are exposed to during the gardening season – weeding, propagating, trellis, pollination, and germinating. Think about how children use pictorial representation to learn about plants. Physical literacy may include the skills used to produce a trellis or lifting and carrying a pumpkin or zucchini.
- Gardening provides children with exposure to their extended community. Children benefit from engaging with adults that have an interest in gardening. The garden provides a venue for children to have experiences with adults such as farmers, other children’s families, intergenerational relationships and others that have a passion for gardening. Think about how a children’s garden can connect them to others in the community. How does it bring new meaning to the people that work in green houses or the farmer that has seeds to share with the children? How does it support bringing grandparents to the environment? How might the garden support children in understanding the concept of food banks?
- Gardening provides children with an introduction to environmental stewardship. The garden provides the space and place for children to explore an array of insects, plant growth and animals that enter the garden. They learn about water and soil and how things in the garden must be cared for. They learn about composting and how some pests are damaging to the garden. Think about how children learn about how soil is created from leaves and other items in the compost. How do they learn about the role that worms play in the composting process?