Growing a New Generation of Gardeners

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Growing a New Generation of Gardeners

The older I get, the more enthusiastic I become to convince the masses on why gardening is so important.

Yet at a time when cultivating the earth is more vital than ever to our sense of place and our mental, physical and financial well-being—even the health of our planet, those that share my vision are perplexed as to why there is so little coverage to be found on the airways and in print around such an important universal activity.

But in spite of the many aspects of gardening that make it far more than just something we do for fun or beautification, few things are more important then engaging our children in the process. I believe it is the best single learning opportunity available for them because every academic educational discipline and many social developmental skills can be addressed through the experiential processes of gardening.

Fortunately there are a few programs nationally that promote gardening with children. The Junior Master Gardener Program equips students with all the basic skills and offers a certification once certain participation requirements have been met. Approved instructors or Master Gardener Volunteers typically lead the program. The National Gardening Association is another organization that offers numerous online articles and resources through their website, kidsgardening.org. Throughout the year, various grant and awards programs are also made available to qualified applicants.

Programs like these and others provide great opportunities even beyond basic classroom curriculums to get children back outside to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. It gets them away from indoor, instant gratification devices that deprive the opportunity to connect with the natural and real world, rather than the artificial one they live in vicariously through computer games, iPods and the Internet.

In a garden, children can breath fresh air, discover bugs, watch things grow and experience what homegrown, organic food really tastes like. They can play in a place where they use their hands and connect with the earth and think and plan and hope and wonder.

In a garden, children can connect with their friends and engage their parents. Real conversations can happen in a garden between brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends and even strangers. And in a garden, strangers don’t remain so for very long.
Here, there are conversations about life and even death, in a way that doesn’t seem so awful. In a garden, children can learn cause and effect and even patience and the sweet taste of victory. They can learn that life isn’t always fair but with a little tender loving care, they can often influence the outcome of their actions.

In a garden, children learn to be more accepting of the many surprises that life has to offer. Gardens are the great equalizers of life and ultimately it’s a safe place to be reminded that even when you think you’re in control, you’re not and that all humans really are created equal.

Yes, I believe if all children had a garden in which to play, they’d learn important life skills and be rewarded academically in the process. They’d respect the sanctity of life, the awesomeness of nature, the love of family and friends and take passionate ownership in knowing that their daily actions really can make a difference for a sustainable future.

Who would have thought that engaging a child in gardening could make such a difference or that it really is so important? And although it is wonderful to have organizations and companies play a major role in allowing this to happen, we need more of them. It also takes people like you and me to plant that seed and nurture its growth. I hope that you are doing something to help make that happen for the children in your life or community too.