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Children are natural gardeners.
They're curious, they like to learn by doing, and they love to play in the dirt!
The purpose of this guide is to inspire and encourage parents to start at-home garden projects with their children.
What do we mean by at-home garden projects? We mean a small kitchen herb garden, a couple of succulents grown terrarium-style on a windowsill, tomato plants in a container on your patio, or a full scale vegetable garden planted in your backyard. It can be small, big, outdoor, or indoor--it really doesn't matter. What does matter is that it involves you, your kids, and some form of garden grown at home.
Why should parents plant a garden with their children? There's a number of reasons, but perhaps most important of all is that there's a very good chance your children have absolutely no idea where their food comes from, and a garden provides the perfect opportunity to reconnect them with the foods they're putting in their bodies. If we can reconnect our children with the foods they eat every day, we can help them develop healthy lifelong habits that will benefit them for years to come. Aside from the obvious health benefits that adding home-grown vegetables and a little more physical activity to their lives can offer, planting an at-home garden also teaches children about responsibility, nurturing, and how to care for the natural environment they live in. An at-home garden will also give children the chance to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from patiently caring for something over time, and in a time when we're all so accustomed to having what we want, when we want it (mandarin oranges at Christmas time, anyone?) teaching children that some of the best things in life take time to grow and develop is definitely not a bad thing.
This guide is inspired by the methods used by Stephen Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine . Stephen is an educator and administrator in the South Bronx. He started the Green Bronx Machine as a means of tackling a couple of the challenges that he and his students were facing on a daily basis. Planting gardens was a fun way to engage his students in productive activities, that would hopefully keep them off the streets and in the classroom. (He succeeded in that, and daily attendance rates have skyrocketed from an average of 40% to an average of 93%). Gardens also provided a means of feeding his students fresh, healthy, nutritious foods--which, for residents of the South Bronx (home to one of the largest food desserts in America) meant he was affecting their physical health at the same as he was impacting their social and academic success. As the Green Bronx Machine gardens began to expand, they also became a way for his students to not only give back to the community they lived in through food donation programs to local soup kitchens, but also a way for students to earn a living wage while still attending regular high school. Talk about a win-win-win-win!
Stephen believes that students shouldn't have to leave their community to live, learn, and earn in a better one, and he's committed himself to making sure that's a reality his students experience in their lifetime. His work in the classroom has had unbelievably far-reaching effects throughout the the Bronx and the United States as a whole but, besides being a teacher, Stephen is also a parent. The methods he uses in his gardens are straightforward and easy to follow, and can be applied by gardeners of all ages. Stephen likes to keep it simple, and we recommend you do the same (at least at the start). Start small, and tailor your at-home gardens to meet the needs and abilities of your children. Once you gain a bit of confidence, try something different, and learn together how to grow something new.
Finally, a note on the format of this guide: This guide is meant to be interactive , so tell us what worked (and what didn't) for you and your little ones. Help other parents by adding your tips, tricks or suggestions to the comments section below so we can make this guide even better. Like a garden, this guide relies on everyone's participation in order to thrive, and everyone's feedback is valued. And, take a moment to watch the short video--guaranteed to provide a healthy dose of inspiration.