Get Your Kids Outside: Reasons for Teaching Young People to Garden

Obvious Mental and Physical Health Benefits 

 Yes, we should have our children work with us in the garden.  Not only does gardening get kids away from video games, text messaging and social networking, but being outside enables them to get exercise, metabolize Vitamin D from sunlight, and boost their immune systems.  All the fresh veggies and fruits we harvest will provide additional health benefits.  Surveys indicate that most children who participate in gardening activities actually LIKE eating garden vegetables.

Lessons from the Garden 

Garden Science

Gardening can also be educational.  For one thing, observing plant growth and the seasons can teach all kinds of science, and can inspire young people with awe at the intricacy of the natural world.  One example of science lessons that can be taught in the garden is a study of insects that are beneficial or harmful to humankind.  Also plant / pollinator relationships are an interesting subject of investigation.  Did you know that bees prefer to pollinate plants with a minty smell and flowers blooming in a range of blues and pinks, whereas moths prefer white flowers with heavy fragrances?  This is why hyssop and oregano are swarmed with bees when they are in bloom.

 The effects of day length on plant growth may also be observed in the garden.  Two plantings of the same crop made a month apart, may often bloom at the same time.  Why?  As the summer days grow shorter, certain plants are “triggered” to set out flowers, trying to make that all-important seed before winter comes.  Because of the effects of day length on plant growth, northern gardeners must plant onions that are bred for long day lengths, and gardeners in the South must choose onion varieties bred for short days.

 A stellar example of what can happen when kids garden is the story of Glenn Drowns, recounted by Carol Deppe in her book, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties.  Living in northern Idaho, Glenn started gardening at age two and a half, when he helped his family plant flowers. At age four, he started helping in his neighbor’s garden. His love of gardening grew until, at age eight, he had his own 500 square foot garden, and was ordering his own seeds.  At age sixteen, Glenn started breeding his own vegetables, and by age twenty, he had bred a watermelon that is the most cold-soil tolerant, early-ripening watermelon in the world.  It is called Blacktail Mountain watermelon. If Glenn did  nothing more for the rest of his life, he still would have given an incomparable gift to humanity, but Glenn went on to become a schoolteacher.  I believe he teaches science.  The valuable science lessons he teaches to his students are also a legacy of those adults who included Glenn in garden activities and passed down their knowledge to him.

Diligence and Hard Work: the Most Important Lesson

 One of the most valuable lessons that kids learn in a garden are the rewards of hard work and diligence.  We all need meaningful work and purpose, and that sense of purpose begins at a young age, when we know that we contribute to our families.  This is a little-emphasized fact that has fallen out of fashion, much to our peril.

Progressive Social Agendas: Undermining Family and Work Ethic

 John Gatto, in his book, A Different Kind of Teacher,  tells how modern Progressives implemented a social agenda that alienated young people from their families and immediate communities, such as churches.  This same agenda taught an aversion to work, putting pressure on poor and working-class families to cease from time-honored practices that required their children to work alongside their parents on farms, in the fields and elsewhere.  According to  Gatto, an award-winning teacher who taught for 30 years in New York, we are left with a generation of students who are alienated, purposeless, and adrift in society.
 Mind you, I am not advocating that children work in mines or sweat shops, but that they prosper from the kinds of safe, easy paced, domestic work that makes a contribution to the welfare of their homes and immediate communities.

 I can assure you that a child’s education will suffer if that child has not learned the benefits of hard work and diligence.  A garden, with the necessity to maintain a routine of weeding, watering, and caring for plants, is a primer in these rarely-touted virtues.

 I find it ironic, that President Obama wants to require all youth to “volunteer” two years of work for their country, in order to impart a sense of belonging and service to this generation.  In other words, after Progressives have imposed their social agenda on our culture with devastating results, they want to solve the resultant problems by requiring young people to work for the State.  But if Progressives, had not undermined the traditional structures and safeguards in the first place, their solutions wouldn’t be needed.

Teaching Liberty: To Whom Does Our Labor Belong?

 Here lies the rub: our labor belongs to ourselves, and not to the State.  It is better for children to contribute to their own families first, and then by extension to their own particular communities, to the degree in which they are willing, and/or have opportunity.  When they have families of their own, they can then train their own children to contribute to their families, and mentor them in the skills they will need for life.  By teaching the precepts of family loyalty and hard work, we teach some of the foundations of liberty.

Skyrocketing Food Prices and Economic Instability

 The final consideration in this discussion is that the ability to grow food is becoming a lost art.  Fewer and fewer adults know how to do so, and fewer young people are going into agriculture for a career.

 Jim Rogers, financial analyst and entrepreneur, says that the average age of farmers in the world is fifty-eight.  Consequently, he says, this is leading to worldwide food shortages, and food prices will skyrocket over the next ten years.  He believes this is already happening.  There is a short video of his viewpoint here http://newwaveslave.com/tag/food-shortage/ 

 If we don’t want to pay a small fortune for food in the future, we need to have family gardens and orchards, if at all possible.  We also need to pass these skills down to our children, and to other young people.  Some of us may need to gain these skills in the first place, so that we can then pass them down.

 The best way for children to gain this precious knowledge and practice these skills is to participate in the natural apprenticeship created by working side-by-side with their own parents or grandparents.

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2 Responses to Get Your Kids Outside: Reasons for Teaching Young People to Garden

  1. donald easley says:

    Autumn Greetings, Once again I have the proverbial look in my eye of the frozen grasshopper, with the caption saying, “next year, I will pay attention to that ant.” I know it won’t happen, but it is good to be repentant when talking to a responsible person. Orah found a bulb sale last week, and I said, “sure, buy me some.” I bought another bag of garlic and I have another variety of garlic that I need to get in the ground, besides the tulips and daffodils.
    Yesterday was, Move Your Money Day, I was thinking of the article I read hear last spring, Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out, Break the Banks. Can it really be happening, that we might have a system that gives us freedom. I have carried a protest sign a few times, working on the next one out of, New Wave Slave’s logo if it isn’t copyrighted. Thank You so much for the time and effort in your blog. Don

    • PoetHerbalist says:

      Don, thank you for commenting. Of all people, I doubt if you are the grasshopper. My husband actually planted the garlic this fall, as I was busy elsewhere! Mostly with food preservation. He is actually talking about taking a greater role in the garden next year. You know garlic sells for quite a bit right now. People like it. We put some nice Inchelium Red in the ground this fall. I would like to be looking forward to a daffodil spring, so I congratulate you on your fall preparation. With snow on the ground, thinking of a future of yellow and green is heavenly. Thanks again for writing, I always enjoy hearing from you.

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