Post by Eboni N. Walker
My mother grew up in rural Mississippi. Her family worked the land for many of her childhood years. And while she naturally takes good care of the plants we have around the house, it is my father- the New Orleans native, who has emerged as the “green thumb” in our family.
Affectionately called Papa Walker, my father began growing a vegetable garden in the backyard a couple of years ago. What began as an activity to escape the pandemic turned into a flourishing hobby that we have all gained so much from. My dad’s “office” as he refers to it, is full of greens, kale, bell peppers, hot peppers, and even broccoli. This season he added okra, and the home grown produce is so delicious!
In Kevin Henkes’ My Garden, a girl dreams of all the fanciful things her garden would grow and produce, including chocolate rabbits. And while the book is a work of fiction, there is a wealth of experience for children to harvest through gardening. Nimmo and Hallett (2008) share
“the garden is a place for many possibilities: play and inquiry, safe risk taking, the building of relationships, and deeper understanding of [natural and social] diversity.”
Gardening and nature-based play integrate key elements in science education – building a scientific attitude, science processing skills, and science content knowledge. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) affirms that learning science and engineering practices in the early years can foster children’s curiosity and enjoyment in exploring the world around them and lay the foundation for a progression of science learning throughout their entire lives.
Indeed, one does not need to be an expert for gardening to be accessible, but rather an open mind. With raised beds or repurposed buckets, we can observe the process of growth and encourage children to investigate. We can trust children with gardening jobs and accept their approach as examples of their self efficacy. We can talk about food, and the social contexts surrounding sustainability. So enjoy these rainy summer days and the harvest they bring – gardening matters!