What's not to love about kids and gardening? There's the fun of messing around in the dirt, the sense of accomplishment when eating a salad made of things we grew, and the basic concept of understanding how we are connected to the ground we are standing on.
Youth gardening programs offer a tremendous opportunity for children to understand and explore the natural world, as well as learn first-hand the benefits of growing, harvesting, and eating healthy foods. First Lady Michelle Obama has made it a national focus with the White House Kitchen Garden.
It's called the "people-plant connection," and every child deserves to have access to this relationship. The hands-on approach to learning about wholesome foods helps engage children with a healthier lifestyle. Many kids in Madison have been exceptionally lucky this summer to participate in gardening projects, and this fall will harvest the rewards of that hard work.
Students at the MSCR Community Learning Center at Glendale Elementary created a new garden with the assistance of some interested adults from MSCR, AmeriCorps and the UW Extension. Their young plot includes a pizza garden, salsa garden, butterfly garden, and garden sculptures.
As Mrs. Obama mentioned, gardening helps kids learn about other aspects of our food culture. Fourth and fifth graders at the MSCR/Glendale site made a visit to Second Harvest Foodbank in Madison to donate yellow and red potatoes and some juicy tomatoes from their garden. Seeing others benefit from the fruits of their labor was especially rewarding for these young gardeners.
The enthusiasm for gardening is contagious! Max Lubarsky, part of AmeriCorps staff at the MSCR/Glendale Community Learning Center, explained how he and his friend, Joe Mullenberg volunteered to build a sturdy wooden shed to house gardening tools. Then Joe's dad got involved. Next, the kids decorated it with murals and a rooftop of grass. With gardening, it is hard not to get excited as you see the pieces and people come together.
"It's amazing to watch these kids benefit from something they might not have otherwise been able to do," Max said. "Their enthusiasm and care for the garden has been unbelievable."
This fall these students will continue to see how their harvest is especially sweet, knowing it is their hard work that helped the garden grow.
All in all, there are 53 community and school gardens in Dane County, double the number there were just eight years ago.
To learn more about the benefits of kids and gardening here are a few helpful sites to visit.
Gardening in Madison
- Community Action Coalition Garden Projects
- City of Madison Community Gardens Information
- Troy Gardens
Gardening with children, in general
This story is written and presented by Madison School & Community Recreation, a department of the Madison Metropolitan School District. MSCR has been providing residents of Madison with recreation options for more than 80 years.