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Why Have a Garden?



Students (and their parents, if you wish)

Ball of string




Brainstorm the many purposes of having a garden:


n      Have fun!


n      Help take care of our environment.


n      Grow delicious, fresh vegetables and fruits to eat.


n      Grow food that you know is safe to eat and chemical-free.


n      Reduce energy consumption, since the food doesn't have to be refrigerated, packaged, or travel very far to get to your table!


n      Save money on groceries.


n      Grow flowers to make your neighborhood more beautiful and give as gifts.


n      Learn about nature.


n      Be creative in a new way.


n      Learn responsibility, organizational skills, and time management to get garden tasks done and be rewarded with healthy plants.


n      Soak up the sunshine, breathe fresh air, and get some exercise.


n      Do fun science experiments.


n      Practice reading, writing and other academic skills.


n      Learn about nutrition.


n      Try cooking and canning.


n      Explore careers that have something to do with food, agriculture, working outdoors, etc.


n      Serve others by growing food for your family or to give away to the hungry.


n      Learn about business and economics, and see how much money you can save by growing your own food.


n      Make money by selling your extra harvest.


n      Make friends with older people who love gardening, too.






The main reason to set up a kids' garden is probably a mixture of all of these, and one more very important purpose: to teach kids about the web of life.


That is, you can learn a lot about how humans and nature are interrelated by spending time gardening. You grow into a steward of the Earth. You see the many ways that humans and the rest of life are in fragile balance as you see the effects of what you do on the plants you grow.


Most gardeners would also say that you become a more respectful and kind friend and family member, too, when you get good at the many skills of gardening. That's because you can be the real "you" in a garden: gentle and productive and creative and happy!


You can learn so much from growing plants in a garden: soil, water, seeds, roots, insects, pollination, erosion, photosynthesis, pollution, and so many other amazing learning opportunities.


Let's demonstrate how it all comes together in gardening, and how all of us are in the web of life with this fun activity.


You may use up an entire ball of string, but if you do, just cut it in tiny pieces and have each student take a handful home to set out for birds to use to build their nests! That's another example of how we all are interrelated!


Have the students and adults sit in a circle on the floor. You walk around the outside of the circle, holding the ball of string. Start asking these questions. Each time someone answers, have them loop the string around their fingers. Everybody should keep holding on to the string from where they connected. They should also remember what question they answered. If you have fewer people than there are questions, they can answer a second question and take a second loop:


1.            Name a plant that grows in this neighborhood.


2.            What does that plant need, to grow? (water)


3.            What other living things besides humans in our area need water to live?


4.            Name something that might eat part of a plant.


5.            What happens to a plant during the winter?


6.            What happens to plants or its parts, like bark and leaves, when they die?


7.            How do plants get recycled into soil?


8.            What is a creature that eats dead plant parts in order to survive?

(earthworms, pill bugs)


9.            What is a creature that eats one of those creatures? (robin, mouse)


10.       What creature, in turn, might eat one of those? (snake)


11.       Name a plant that might grow in the new soil created by the creatures eating dead plant parts.


12.       What would happen to plants if they didn't get any water or any rain for one month?


13.       If the plants died, what would happen to the creatures that eat plants?


14.       If those creatures died, what would happen to the creatures that eat them?


15.       Name things that we eat that come from plants.



When each person is holding string, ask them what shape they have made - a web. What does it represent? The connections between living things. Each person, and each creature or object in nature, plays a special role in the web of life.


Now ask two people to raise their hands: the student or adult who answered the first question about a plant, and the second question about what plants need, with the answer of "water." Ask them what would happen if humans let pollution get into the water that the plant needed to live. If they said the plant would die, use the scissors to cut the string between those two.


Now ask the person who answered the third question, what other living things besides humans need plants to live, to raise his or her hand. Since the plant has died and the connection is cut, take a hold of the end of the string that leads to that third person, and tug on it sharply. Ask the group who else noticed the tugging. That will show them how, when there's one problem in the web of life, it creates problems for other parts of the web.


You can brainstorm solutions to these problems and keep adding more connections to your web. You can suggest other hypothetical situations and ask the students and parents to name the consequences, or suggest solutions that would restore the web to balance.


-- Adopted from Junior Master Gardener Teacher/Leader Guide,

a 4-H Youth Development Program,

Texas Cooperative Extension, pp. 43-44




By Susan Darst Williams www.KidsGardenClub.org Planning 01 2010


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