It is often said that children are sponges – so eager and excited to learn and absorb anything that comes their way. They enjoy the wonders of science, and today’s youth are, truly, the first generation being brought up with the Green initiative. They know recycling is important. They have heard about people reducing their carbon footprint. They are genuinely interested in these things. So why not, as volunteers and people who donate, focus on this area? Why not create a “learning garden”? Gardening and composting is a great way to not only teach children a past time or hobby that may last forever, but it is also a great way to help the environment and the world.
A byproduct may also be a generation of people who learn healthy habits early on. Imagine the reduced costs of health care in this environment! While not all locations are suitable for large-scale gardens or compost sites the size of a truck, there are much smaller-scale container garden opportunities that may word perfect for a city dweller. Even in a city there may be a local garden, or a vendor at a local farmer’s market who may have ideas where a project like this may be able to locate close by. No matter the size of your garden, children will learn many things there that they will carry with them for life.
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Whether on a small scale within a large city, or on a bit bigger scale in a suburb or rural area, it takes only a limited amount of money to start a “learning garden”. Children can learn not only what types of plants provide what types of nutrition advantages, but many other things as well. They can learn what nutrients each type of plant leaches from the soil, and what other plants may be planted in that place the next year to compliment what the soil would then need. They can learn about insects: which are harmful and which are helpful to their gardens. They can also learn that hard work pays off. When they see their vegetables and herbs growing, and finally get to eat some of the “fruits of their labor”, they may be hooked for life. If they find they have more than they can consume themselves, maybe showing them how to donate to a local food pantry would be in order. This would instill values in the children and help them understand that they, too, can make a difference. Add composting to that mix. This is another area of science that interests children when presented in the right way.
Kids will learn that they can save simple things their parents throw away every day, such as coffee grounds and egg shells, to make an excellent top soil that will help their crops grow even better. This is recycling at its most basic level. Again, the space to work a compost pile may be limited, but with the advent of composting bins and barrels, a small investment can teach a lifetime of good habits. For those who enjoy being outdoors, or who relish in growing things, this type of garden is a perfect learning opportunity for children. It is also a way to help improve people’s lives and the life of planet Earth herself.
Start small, with herbs and easy-to-grow vegetables. Pick up a seed catalog or visit your local florist. Find out what growing zone you are in and what edible plants grow best. Start with these plants and then branch out. There are several places to find children’s groups to which to donate this kind of time and energy. Schools, church groups, 4H groups, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and many other organizations are constantly looking for adults to donate their time. You don’t need to be a Master Gardener to teach children to garden and compost. Sometimes doing the research with them helps them more than simply giving them all of the answers. When you’re in need of help, stop at the florist or local farmer’s market. Teaching kids positive behaviors that will follow them throughout their lives can be nothing but helpful. It will help the next generation, and generations to come. When you give of yourself to others, and show them how to do the same, your donation of time and money goes much farther than you could ever imagine.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON COMPOSTING, CHECK OUT:Home Composting Basics