I love Tuesdays. From 8 am to 2:15 pm, it is nonstop pace between 5 different classes, 2 weekly meetings and lunch. Despite the hectic schedule, there are quite a few avid gardeners on the roster, and honestly, a bunch of reluctant ones too. Even though the first inclination of some students is to not don gardening gloves and grab a trowel, Tuesday’s reluctant gardeners, for the most part, will humor me. Classes range from grades 8-12 on this day of the week and are comprised of many students who are capable of completing a wide variety of tasks.
At this time of year, we’re not sitting down to formal lessons, we’re working. We are learning a lot, as we do. Using experiential education to actively engage students in genuine activities that have real life connections is a powerful tool. And since there is so much to be done at this time of the growing season, students have many different options to choose from. It’s an important time in these mostly 13-18 year old students to be making decisions about which tasks will complement their strengths (and they know what those are).
Tuesday’s gardening classes also find many opportunities to build upon relationships, while rebuilding infrastructure. From watering new plantings to re-chipping a pathway, students work together and independently to get things done. Being able to work with others is such an important aspect of life and gardening offers so many opportunities for this to happen. On the flip side, there are times when a student just wants to work alone. On Tuesday, one student had been in testing most of the morning and just needed a little space. He took a wheelbarrow and went with a staff member to gather cardboard for our pathway project. It was just the time away he needed.
The garden is also a great place for social interaction. As long as people are working constructively, there is no reason students can’t work with a friend. Bonding time is important for all teenagers, especially for kids dealing with social issues. By finding common ground with a friend, self-confidence is built. Students also have opportunities to strengthen relationships with staff as they work one-on-one. The extra positive attention is a big bonus, both socially as well as when it comes to learning a new skill. Our 2 new garden interns, Kerri and Sarah, were assisting in the Children’s Garden today, which was an incredible help, as are the teaching assistants that travel to the garden with their classes. Having extra hands allows us to split up into different areas and tackle multiple tasks.
Planning is key to keeping our projects rolling forward: starting with the macro side of things (the big picture) and working back to micro side of things (the particulars). With only 45 minutes per class, each one puts a piece of the puzzle into place. Every student, staff member and volunteer that contribute to the garden may not realize it at the moment, but the “rock” they chip away at, whether planting a few tomato plants, mulching part of a bed, or making a new friend, will soon transform our garden into an edible place of wonder and learning!