“Our experiences show children leave our sessions CALM, HAPPY and ENLIGHTENED with RENEWED ENERGY” The hugely successful scheme to involve schools with gardening is facing a critical year with challenges to now involve secondary schools and ensure young people embrace horticulture New research for a new gardening season suggests children perform better at school if they’re involved with gardening, and many will develop a greater interest in healthy eating if they get to grow their own veg. For children with learning or behavioural difﬁculties, fulﬁlling nonacademic tasks and roles seemed to be particular sources of achievement and worth. They also found gardens to be “peaceful places” conducive to Children can learn and have so much fun too meditation. The number of schools using gardens and the natural world to teach students continues to increase and the campaign is being stepped up in 2018. The programme run by the RHS, now has 20,000 school members, with 81per-cent growing plants speciﬁcally to attract wildlife and pollinators. The scheme has been inspirational in many schools but in 2018 is expected to see record numbers taking part and parents and teachers enthuse about the long and short-term beneﬁts of gardening. 40
The society has also found that children who get digging and watering build life skills such as conﬁdence, teamwork and communication. Caroline Levitt, who founded the Diggers Forest School and Nursery near Midhurst, West Sussex, believes the beneﬁts of outdoor work even for the smallest children are huge. She says: “Children can learn so much and have fun, too. “Gardening involves lots of different activities, such as design of the garden and choice of what to plant, and it can be a good team or friendship building exercise, as they take turns to water plants and share the weeding. This is also a good way to learn responsibility. “Gardening can also be a fantastic sensory experiment, handling dry earth or gloopy mud and even worms! It is a great way for children to naturally learn patience while they watch their produce grow.” Ms Levitt adds that gardening is useful for stimulating creativity. “We get them thinking about the design of the layout and in terms of how seeds are planted – for example, neatly in rows or thrown into a pot. “We plant flowers in addition to veg and discuss colours, and the height plants will grow to, plus point out the different smells of herbs.” Gardening for children is also closely linked to feelings of well-being. The healthcare think tank The King’s Fund produced the report ‘Gardening and Health’, which found that most qualitative studies in this area reported positive well-being effects on children, including in terms of personal achievement, pride and empowerment through growing food and being involved in gardening.
The April 2018 issue of Devon Country Gardener Magazine