From Garden to Guardian: Planting the Seeds of Stewardship in Children through Gardening
In each child is the seed of a steward, requiring nothing more than care and nurture to fully blossom. We are born with an unconscious, instinctive awareness of our interconnection with all life. It is only through the slow degradation and forgetting of that connection that children of the modern era become technologically dependent and nature-fearful. From apathy regarding the impacts of daily actions on the planet to health decline from lack of exercise, fresh air, and wholesome food, our children deserve to be spared from the path of disconnection.
Nourishing the seed of interconnectivity with all life is as simple as planting a seed in soil. Gardening with a child in any setting, urban or rural, is a time-worn way to bring that inner knowledge to bear, give it water and sun, and watch it grow.
Here are a few simple ideas for at-home or garden-classroom lesson for ages 3-8:
Plant Parts: How Veggies Go Gourmet
Objective: Children will identify plant parts by comparing their bodies to plant bodies, harvesting edible plant parts in the garden, and sorting snack items by their plant parts while eating them.
- Pre-prepared plant part snacks such as carrots (roots), sunflower seeds and almonds (seeds), apples (fruit), kale or lettuce (leaves), etc.
- Handmade drawing and list of plant parts with space for placing samples.
- A couple brown paper bags for harvesting.
I. Comparing their own bodies to the bodies of plants is easy: feet are roots, legs and torso are a stem, arms are leaves, the head is a flower, and ideas are seeds. You could even make a song out of it using a familiar tune like ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes’!
II. Then, with instruction from teacher/parent, children will harvest a plant in the garden to identify plant parts, tasting the edible sections (ex: onion is an edible root with edible leaves as well). Afterwards, let the children roam in the garden to find and harvest edibles, some for immediate snacking, and some for later.
III. Finally, with guidance from the parent/instructor children will sort snack items into their plant part categories on a pre-prepared picture/list as they enjoy both pre-prepared plant parts as well as plant parts harvested in the garden during the lesson.
The most important element of gardening for guardianship is to allow children to engage with their natural sense of wonder and exploration. Roaming in the garden, discovering and tasting, makes vegetables they might have turned a nose up to before transform into gourmet delicacies. I’ve seen it with my own eyes- small people scarfing raw zucchini and chewing on green onions!
Children will never think vegetables come from the grocery store again and when they are developmentally ready in later years, will be prepared to think critically and feel deeply about what is sprayed on their food or soil.
Have fun and happy ‘guard’-ening!