It's already week 3 of our Kids Garden Month "Let's Grow Together" discussions!!!This week's question for everyone: How does your garden or garden program help kids build connections? Do you have a mentorship program between older and younger kids? Do seniors spend time gardening with kids in your program? How else are kids connecting with each other and their communities?Anyone who responds is entered into a drawing to win a $50 gift card to Gardener's Supply Company! If you missed the last two weeks, check out all the ways youth gardens are supporting communities and communities are supporting youth gardens!
One way our school garden helps build connections is getting multiple age/grade levels together for gardening activities. Recently middle school students helped first graders plant native plants in our new bird attraction area. We also have a club that meets on Friday afternoons of mixed grade level students from grades 1 - 4. They have worked together on starting seeds, propagating plants and even making seed bombs to plant windflowers in our community.
My small group of afterschool garden club students tend to several areas around the building. They take pride in the work they put in and have been seen pointing out their work to classmates. They loved seeing bulbs bloom months after putting them in (and forgetting about them). They check on their seedlings at recess and show others around the pollinator beds. The multi-age connections are genuine and make these children feel empowered and proud. I am hoping they will generate more interest for others to get involved in gardening and understand nature all around us. When the weather warms up and butterflies come back, the kids will be searching for caterpillars on the plants and that will generate more interest from our younger students who will ask questions and the older students will teach the young ones about the life cycle and they all bond over the cuteness of the caterpillars. (This brings me such joy to watch each year!)
I consistently see connections being made in our school garden as students work together and help each other with tasks in and around the garden. One of many examples is when we do our compost lesson, students work together to shovel the completed compost onto the sieve, while others sieve the compost, and finally others work together to put the compost onto the garden beds. Sometime they have to trouble shoot and work together to solve a problem. One of my favorite memories with my students in the garden is when one student was afraid of a carpenter bee, and another came alongside and encouraged the student and helped them overcome their fear. They LOVE to give tours of the garden to other teachers, parents and students.
Our garden is currently in our classroom as we wait for geese with goslings to leave the courtyard where our garden will be. We are building connections with students and staff as the students explain what is being grown and observe the growth of the plants. Staff is amazed at the connections between NASA and the hydroponic tower. We have tomato plants from Tomatosphere that have 1/2 the seeds germinated on the ISS and the other on Earth. We are observing to see if we notice any difference. We have the Chile Pepper Challenge from space which will look at the capsaicin of the pepper. These two things alone have built connections. The students that are managing the garden are all students with special needs. Their general education friends love to check on the plants and talk to the students about the plants. We look forward to building more connections as the garden grows.
We build connections with adults and students in our greenhouse. We also help students build connections with each other as well as nature. We use our greenhouse as part of our reward system. Several students who earn points throughout the week will choose the greenhouse as a place to go once they have earned their points. This allows one-on-one time between the student and another staff member. We also talk about connections to nature and how being with plants makes us feel. Our students work together to take care of our plants and garden area. We mix grade levels together to achieve projects. Our students love to visit our garden area on their recess break.
I think by taking the classes outside and on field trips to the farm we're also partnering with, the students are bonding better with all the hands-on participation. The students also leave the classroom to come to the school library, where the hydroponics unit resides. The responsibility of growing plants also creates a bond that's hard to explain.
We are a bi-lingual teaching garden. We help the kids (and adults) in our garden connect by offering the experience in Spanish and English. The kids are helping each other to learn their respective languages (we are in North Carolina - Robeson County)
In the summer we sometimes have teen volunteers help out with the K-6 Garden Club so the children are able to make connections with teens. They also make connections with each other by working together in the garden. In addition, sometimes whole families join in, so families are connect with each other as they work in the garden and also connecting with other families.
We have a cub scout troop that meets at our school. many of the members are students at the school They help do improvement projects in the garden. The majority of our students live in crowded apartments and do not get out of their neighborhood much. The weekly hands-on garden lessons gives them some background expereinces for when they participate in field trips related to science, farming or nature.
We just hosted PAT (Parents as Teachers) in the garden and to see the toddlers meeting one another and sharing smells and tasting new foods was amazing! When one wasn't interested in tasting the food, he was willing to smell the sage, thyme and rosemary. This led him to try some spinach and kale, just fantastic!
The school gardens build connects in many ways. First the garden lessons bring out the curiousity and leadership abilities. Second, the scavanger hunt gets students talking to each other from other grade level classes. It has brought in many volunteers from all over the community (Green Iowa, BH Nutrition/ Health, UNI Local Foods, Parents and Families). The older students (4th / 5th) help support the garden program by showing different groups about composting or other garden ideas.
Our school is extremely diverse - more than 20 different countries are represented in our students and staff. I like to use the garden to show how we can travel the world through the garden. We plant foods and flowers that represent the different countries - learning their origin and use in cuisines and culture. We use the garden to connect and learn about each other. We are having an International Garden Family event this month where families not only get to plant foods and flowers representing the different countries, but they also learn to play outdoor garden games that are played in those different countries. The garden helps us see how connected we all are - no matter where we come from!
One way our school garden helps build connections is by having bi-annual garden work days open to the public. We invite our entire student body and their families, teachers, and staff and also invite several organizations (churches, university volunteers, extension master gardeners). Our Horticulture classes create flyers to hang around the school and vote on one to post to our garden and school social media sites.
The garden helps build connections among the students. They work together to plant and harvest. We teach lessons about how they need to cooperate and communicate when planting seeds so they are spaced out for the best growth. they need to work together to plant the seedlings as they are delicate and need to be treated with care to grow successfully. When we harvest, we put everything everyone has harvested together. We talk about how much a family can use of the harvest before it spoils. We ask them who else we might be able to share the harvest with (teachers etc).
Connections children can make when gardening are limitless and invaluable. Just learning how food is grown instead of thinking it comes from the grocery shelf bin can be amazing to a child. Giving children the chance to grow food from seed can take them through the entire life cycle of the plant. Once they understand the parts of a plant, you can introduce the idea of which foods they eat are roots, bulbs, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds. A cultural connection to their heritage can be made when certain varieties of herbs and vegetables can be grown and cooked or prepared into familiar dishes traditional to their culture. Growing fruit trees would be a wonderful way to connect children with the life cycle of trees and both plants and trees can connect children to literature, art and history. Who was Johnny Appleseed, why are pumpkins so popular for Halloween, what was the Legend of the Bluebonnet, where did the Poinsettia get its name and what is it considered a Christmas Flower, and a thousand more questions can be explored at every age level. Experiments can be made with seeds and plants to connect children with science, geography, biomes. Why are growing native plants better for the pollinators? A connection to migration of the Monarch can be made as well as ecology when a Way Station is added to the school yard. What is the connection of the Monarch to the Mexican Heritage? Connections to medicinal plants and their remedies can be made just by planting aloe. I won't go on, as space is running out but with imagination, we can find limitless connections to every aspect of a child's life.
Gardening with our children makes many connections. Connecting the children to the world around them and nature is so impactful in their development and growth. Gardening with children builds connections between the children and their teachers and it is powerful to be able to share a passion and appreciation that you have with children. Authentic experiences are the most profound and meaningful. As we share our experiences and information with parents, connections between children and their parents are strengthened as well. We are also able to share with the community in various ways such as sharing experiences with different child care programs in our area and sharing with the community what and how the children are learning. As we work to engage children, families, and the community we are all doing a small part to of the big picture of making many connections.
Very encouraging to hear of the many countries represented in MO, our school system here in SE NC is similar. Our vision is to expand the number of languages we can reach out to the families in. It is so important for us to communicate in languages the parents can understand.
Our garden helps kids build connections in so many ways, but the one that resonates most to me right now is that the garden is a place where kids relate to each other physically and in person -- a foil for the overabundance of virtual opportunities to "connect." In the garden, they're connecting to me, to each other, and to their environment: to the earth and to the plants and insects and animals and microbes that share the garden and help make it thrive. Just like the plants do, in the garden the kids are reaching down into the dirt (rootedness), as well as out and up at the same time (listening, learning, sharing, absorbing).
In April we had our preschool Garden Day. We invite our parents to come in and help us plant plants, flower and herbs. This year the children were so excited to see grandparents and neighbors come to help them plant and play with the worms for Garden Day. The parents, grandparents, neighbors were just as excited to come to our Backyard Classroom and help plant. So, not only did the children build a connection with each other they also built a connection with family and neighbors.
Our school garden helps kids build connections in many ways! It facilitates friendships by providing an activity that can be communally enjoyed. It facilitates cross-curricular connections by providing a naturalistic learning environment with lots of interesting stimuli. It connects kids to fresh produce, building a connection between food and its origins. Finally, it helps kids connect with their community by providing the resources needed to engage in community activities like the Mathew's Dickey Green gala and or our annual cook-off.
I am truly pleasantly surprised to know there are so many of us. I do have a question- it might not fit in this thread, but if the African American kids and parents that participate- how is the negative stigma of our people being former slaves addressed in gardens?
The beginning of April my boys began our outside work they built a raised garden bed with a greenhouse top. On the first day old and young a like began to show up and see what we are doing. Even our security guard stopped by to say how great it all looks. Each day someone would stop by to help. They also had two compost going worm and hot. The neighborhood children kept it up and started seedlings inside. They felt so confident and accomplished as they got a chance to educate adults on what they had been doing. We have neighbors saving us compost scraps and many whose hands got deep in the dirt. The children excite me because as everything is sprouting they are overflowing with joy. It's a beautiful thing to see how a little neighborhood garden can attract so many neighbors. There has been more people in our yard in the month of April than the whole two years we have lived here. Building memories and community bonds over a little garden.
Our garden helps kids build connections with staff and general education students. We have students from all areas of our high school visit our classroom because they see the grow lights, plants, and weather station and are intrigued. It gives my students a chance to show off their skills and knowledge about the garden. They have brought plants to staff which helps the students become more connected with the school. As a whole the garden has connected students of all walks of life and differences to be more connected.
Our small garden brings kids of all ages together, from our Lil Chefs program, ages 5 to 12, teens from a local school, our volunteers, and those 55 and older; they all share the gardening space, and help each others. It's nice hearing seniors share their memories of their own gardens to the younger ones. Many of these seniors no longer have their own garden space so they really enjoy being able to visit ours.