By: Lauren Arbogast
It never ceases to amaze me. Whether in the classroom surrounded by excited elementary students or on my own in my small plot of land – the magic of a fragile green shoot poking through crumbly earthen soil brings a twinkle to my eye. Students tend to let their enthusiasm show through excited verbal exchanges and prodding little fingers, while adults tend to smile, nod, and chalk the newness of life up to a routine finding.
If I’m alone in my garden, I take a second to let a smile deepen the creases around my eyes while I tenderly stroke the new life reaching for the sun. From a little girl, I’ve loved the feel of fresh tilled soil under my bare toes, poking holes with my index finger to drop in seeds, and yes – seeing life multiplied exponentially from a tiny seed.
As a classroom teacher, I used to bring nature into lessons as often as possible, and a garden or gardening activities were a fantastic way to do that. But what I learned over the years was that gardening taught so much more than earth, environment, nature, agriculture, and any other relatable topic you could pin to it. Connecting with the earth allowed the students to transport themselves and each other across cultural and language barriers, behavior issues, and stressful home environments. And it was these life lessons that focused their performance in the classroom with the required learning.
Magic takes time.
Fresh air and dirty hands are often the best medicine.
Life is beautiful.
Plants make great listeners.
We are part of something more than ourselves.
Sure - math, science, language arts - they all can be tied into gardening. But the life lessons gained from hands in the dirt learning offer relevance in and beyond the classroom. So as the days warm up, look no farther than your nearest patch (or pot!) of soil to bring lessons to life for your students – and soak in those life lessons yourself!
Lauren Arbogast is a former preschool teacher with experience bringing agriculture and nature into the classroom in many multi-faceted ways. Her classroom was a place where imagination and hands-on lessons prospered. Many of the books on the Foundation’s “Recommended Publications” graced her shelves and were incorporated into many hands-on lessons!
Learn how to start a school garden: School Gardens the Why and How.