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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Guest Post - 3 Ways to Get Schoolchildren Interesting in Gardening

You might have seen recent news about the suggestion of banning packed meals in school in favour of freshly-prepared school dinners. Although I’m unsure how successful this will be, I strongly agree that eating proper cooked meals at school is much healthier and more beneficial to children in many aspects.

One thing that can help schools to provide these quality meals within their current budget is school gardening, which is also a fantastic activity for the pupils to learn about the environment, plant biology and just how much work goes into preparing the food on their plate each day! It can also be an indirect way of encouraging school children to eat a cooked meal at lunchtime, if they helped grow the vegetables themselves.

While many kids will be intrigued by the idea of gardening for the first time, more often than not they’ll get bored quickly. So how can we keep the children’s interest in school gardening and motivate them to do it continuously? 

Here, I would like to introduce you to three simple but effective methods…

1.       Giving responsibility and flexibility
One of the most effective ways to motivate children in any topic is by giving responsibility. Like every human being, when given individual or shared responsibility, children will feel valued and motivated to succeed.

Teachers can offer each kid, (or if space is limited a group), a small garden bed that only belongs to him/her/them, and give them the right and responsibility to choose their own seeds or bulbs from a list of common vegetables. The variety of choices and their individual care needs can also increase the knowledge the pupils gain from gardening, since each child can be given the chance to give a short presentation to the rest of the class about what they chose to plant and what that plant needed to grow.

Teachers can also allow children to make their own watering, pest monitoring and weeding plans. If they’re older, you can even carry out chemistry experiments to determine the soil type of their individual area to better help them choose what to plant

2.       Be creative
From watering cans to spades, bring them into art class and let children do what they like with them.  Children are extremely creative and when you’re 10 years old, gardening is ten times better when you have a rainbow-coloured shovel to do it with!

Teachers can also plan art or biology lessons for the students to draw what they think their plants would look like after various amounts of time. This can keep the children excited and interested in gardening after they’ve planted their seeds and are while waiting for results, which is when they are most likely to lose interest.
3.       Reward them from time to time
There are many ways of rewarding during the course of gardening, and it is not always necessary to choose the best gardeners. Hand out rewards for first-to-flower, tastiest tomatoes, best-maintained garden and even most creative vegetable arrangement!

Let the parents know about your school gardening events and invite them in when it’s time to harvest. Make that day a big event, and show off everyone’s work in front of all the parents, teachers and students.

Also, let them enjoy the final result for longer. Make a photography book for the flowers or plants they gardened and put up a board in the dinner hall announcing exactly whose vegetables the school is eating each day.

By this, your pupils will feel their hard work is being valued and gain a sense of achievement. Next time you ask who wants to garden with you, you might see an awful lot of arms being raised up!

About the Author: Jessie Wang is a freelance writer who blogs about gardening, education and leading an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can contact her by email.

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