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Reap What You Sow: How to Instill Values & Teach with Gardening (Even inside Gardening)

Oct 08, 2014 11:58PM ● By Erin Frisch

Even though the leaves are falling and winter is coming. You can still garden inside. What can kids learn from planting seeds in a plastic foam cup with dirt? A lot more than just the fact that seeds need soil, water, and sunlight to grow. The GreenTween curriculum introduced by The Horticultural Society of New York has courses for kids to learn how to plan a garden, improve soil, identify different plants, and prepare the food they grow—all while relating it to the math, history, literacy, and art they are learning in other classes. Parents can use resources like GreenTween to teach horticultural science concepts and responsibility year-round. Read on to learn more about how to educate children about the joys of potting plants and growing flowers both indoors and outdoors.

Teaching with Seeds

Seeds offer many teachable moments including identification, germination, observation, biology of plant embryos. Parents can teach about abundance and sustainability with seed collecting and saving, harvest methods to preserve the seeds for future crops. Activities like measuring seed pods, counting or weighing seeds that are harvested, sprouting seeds to see how roots, stems, and leaves grow, and using different seeds in a matching game are fun science tasks for little kids.

Use seeds and growing to teach kids about honoring loved ones who’ve passed on, and continue the circle of life with a Seeds of Life Memory Tree kit from FTD. They can help a new tree grow from an acorn and parents can teach about the value of nurturing living things, remembering someone who has passed, patience, and waiting for the reward of growing a healthy, strong seedling to plant outside in a special place as spring arrives.

Teaching with Gardens

The garden is a great science lesson just waiting to happen. Michigan State University Extension recommends using garden pest problems to teach observation, problem-solving, and critter and pest identification when crops are attacked by bugs and animals. Kids can try to guess what is eating the spinach they planted by looking at tracks and damage patterns, and researching common garden pests. They can try to figure out how to keep rabbits and other hungry animals out of the garden and away from crops. Experiment with different types of fun scarecrows for the autumn season, noise makers, and repellents during the winter months to see what works best.

Teaching with Indoor Gardening

As the winter season quickly approaches, having a little greenery around your home can keep you and your children enthusiastic about the spring season during bleak winter months. All you will need is one large pot with small holes in the bottom, paired with a draining tray. Select four hardy herbs that grow at different heights, fill your pot with soil and you're ready to start planting. Enlist your children to help loosen the roots and dig three-inch holes in the soil for the herbs. Water the herbs after you have added the final layer of soil and place the pot somewhere in your home where it can take in as much of the winter sun as possible. Maintenance is easy—add in a cup of water when the herbs look droopy and always prune from the top.

Tending to an indoor herb box can keep the kiddos busy and also provides for additional learning opportunities in the kitchen. Teach your child about which herbs and seasonings work best with their favorite savory winter dishes, like basil for pizza, garlic for hearty pastas and thyme in warm soups.

Plant & Garden Programs

Parents who don’t know a lot about plants and gardening may want to take advantage of programs at local botanical gardens, community gardens, or cooperative extension services. Organized gardens have many different programs to teach science and other topics with horticulture. Programs like family workshops with science-based learning opportunities may be available through organizations for learning about growing food, insects and their lifecycles and habitats, and what products and services are produced from plants. Visit Discover New England to find a garden that will suit your needs.

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