Kids benefit from gardening

Gardening benefits kids academically, physically, socially

Published on Thursday, 20 August 2015 05:27 – Written by Keith Hansen, Keeping It Green

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Twenty-two years ago I wrote about the benefits and importance of gardening with and for kids, Today, the need is the same, and it is even more important to help get kiddos to take a break from electronic devices and a sedentary life-style and get outdoors to experience the wonders waiting to be found in the garden.

My Texas A&M AgriLife Extension coworkers in College Station have done a great job providing materials and resources for educators and parents alike to teach kids all about gardening. The nationally acclaimed Junior Master Gardener curriculum has been tested and researched, and has resulted in many positive benefits to kids both academically and socially.

Here are some interesting results from a national survey of teachers and leaders using the JMG curriculum:

Eighty-five percent of respondents said JMG has increased youth interest in science.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said youth were more enthusiastic about learning.
Eighty-five percent of teachers or leaders plan to continue using the JMG program with youth.

Sixty-nine percent of teachers and leaders said that JMG has encouraged students to perform community service projects outside the classroom.

Sixty-three percent said youth tried new fruits and vegetables.

Also, third- and fifth-graders showed more positive attitudes toward fruit and vegetable snacks and an improvement in vegetable preference scores after completing activities from a nutrition gardening curriculum.

The folks at A&M have now come up with a new, streamlined program designed to be more easily implemented in schools. It is called “Learn, Grow, Eat & Go.” Here are some research results from a pilot study of this program:

Increase in moderate and vigorous daily physical activity.

Increase in student vegetable exposure and preference.

Decreased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Increased self efficacy to consume healthy beverages.

Increase in healthy family meal practices.

Increased knowledge about nutrition.

Increased knowledge about plant science.

For more information on the Junior Master Gardener program and “Learn, Grow, Eat & Go.” Visit the website at jmgkids.us.

GARDENING WITH KIDS

You can easily get your kids (or grandkids) involved in a home-gardening project. Growing plants is very educational and therapeutic, as anyone who is involved will agree. Yes, we fight pestilence, are frustrated by uncooperative weather and experience failures. But, that’s a picture of life. A garden teaches us many things concerning life and is a wonderful tool for developing young minds. The immediate rewards come when the flowers bloom and the vegetables are ready to eat. In the long term, children can learn many important lessons that will help them mature into responsible adults.

Children are naturally inquisitive, and what better way to nurture their curiosity than in a healthy exploration of the plant world? Youngsters can be taught an incredible number of lessons just by raising a few plants. Responsibility and patience are two virtues that quickly come to mind as lessons we all learn from a garden. Let them have failures alongside successes. They will open up much more to your guidance as they realize your advice can help them reach their gardening goals.

Of course, science can be taught in many enjoyable ways. The life cycle of a plant, from the germination of a seed to the production of fruit, to its eventual death, mirrors all events in life. How does a plant grow? What does it need? How do things such as pollution affect the growth of plants? Hundreds of very simple experiments can be done in a garden. When a child asks a question, help the child to suggest answers and then design an experiment to test his or her theory.

Pests are a part of every garden, and discovering the many insects, both good and bad, living in the garden will be an adventure. A magnifying glass will reveal many hidden things on leaves, flowers, in the soil, etc. Adults will need to assist in pest control.

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