4 Reasons to Start a Class Garden
If you’re worried about illnesses spreading at school, emotions and anxiety levels may be heightened. Outdoor activities can be safer and healthier. Gardening isn’t just a fun hobby for home—starting a class garden or school garden can be beneficial to both educators and students.
Here are just a few reasons to start a class garden:
Research has shown that gardening can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and improve mood.
Whether the reduction in stress is caused by the dose of vitamin D from the sun, the exercise, the sense of accomplishment, or all three, students, as well as teachers, can benefit from any opportunity to reduce their level of stress.
Anytime students can connect learning to real-world experiences, retention and engagement improve.
Gardening provides ample opportunity for hands-on, real-world science and math lessons; plant life cycle, photosynthesis, respiration, growth rate, and measurement are just a few topics that can be explored.
Working in a class garden, even a small one, also helps students build skills, such as hard work, patience, perseverance, teamwork, and responsibility, that will support their social-emotional well-being now and later in life.
All three of my children would spend the entire day with their screens if I let them, and I would venture to guess that many other students would do the same.
With technology to entertain them indoors, many children are missing out on the exercise that comes as a byproduct of spending time outdoors.
Although you can’t control what your students do when they leave class, giving them time outside to work in the class garden is a small contribution to a healthier lifestyle.
Healthy Eating Habits
Researchers from Ohio State University and Cornell University found that students are five times more likely to eat vegetables if they have grown them themselves.
I’ve seen this play out in my own home, as my children are always happy to eat (or at least sample) the veggies we pick from the garden but often have to be coerced to eat ones we buy from the store.
Even if you aren’t growing enough veggies to provide a substantial amount of food for your students to eat, getting to sample and help grow food can pique their interest in eating more fruits and veggies.
It may seem like a daunting task to start a class garden at school, but it doesn’t have to be. You can start a small container class garden for your class with just a few pots, soil, and seeds. You can always expand to a more permanent class garden as your experience, funding, and interest in gardening on your campus increases.
How to Pay for a Class Garden
Undoubtedly, there are costs associated with starting a class garden, even a small one. Here are a few ways to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses:
Visit local nurseries to ask if they can donate supplies
Many local nurseries give away used pots for free, and some may offer freebies or discounted supplies for educators.
Connect with families
You don’t have to foot the bill for your class garden yourself. Often, families have items around their homes that they would be happy to donate. Make a list of what you need, and then ask parents to donate new or used supplies.
Visit discount retailers
A dollar store in my area offers gloves, seeds, pots, soil, and tools, each for a dollar or less. Check these discount stores before heading to the big-box home-improvement stores so that the money you do spend can go even further.
For resources to help start your school garden, check out the school gardening section of the Farm to Child Nutrition Programs Planning Guide published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).