Our days are riddled with transitions, aren’t they? From the first moment of our mornings, as we move from sleep into waking, as we leave our warm, cozy beds into less snugly environs, as we change from pajamas to clothes, go from an empty belly to a full belly, the list goes on and on. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
For most of us, shifting gears is not a problem, it’s just naturally a part of our day. For children however, transitions can be very difficult. And what if you are a child with an emotional or social disability, or a student that’s on “the spectrum?” For these children, our children, transitions can be extremely challenging. Breaking the routine, or ending the activity of a hyper-focused child who is actively engaged in a task can feel painful and be extremely upsetting.
We’ve just made our big transition: the one that takes us away from the garden and into the greenhouse for the winter months. Imagine, if you will, you’re a child in class, at your desk, wrapping up an academic lesson, and it’s time for gardening class. You have to put on your jacket, hat and gloves, leave the familiar warmth of your classroom, step outside into the cold November air and walk across campus to the greenhouse. As you enter the greenhouse your senses are tingling with the scents of spices and herbs recently crushed and jarred for tea-making, plants of all colors, sizes and shapes surround you, the heating kicks on and produces a strong vibrational hum and the small machine that powers the louvered vents to maintain the desired temperature sounds like a plane coming in for landing. Welcome to the greenhouse!
In an effort to counterbalance the sensory overload surrounding our environment, it is important to employ routine, structure and an organized setting.I lead each class in a similar way, beginning with introducing the session’s topic and project, followed by a break out into groups, partners or individual work. At the end of class, we all clean up, put supplies away and sit down together to enjoy a warm, herbal cuppa (aka cup of tea).
By instilling routines, clear expectations and structure in the greenhouse, we fulfill the need many of our students have for predictability as well as providing them with a feeling of safety. The emotional value of these outcomes is huge. The difference can be night and day between a setting where a child feels anxious with anticipation about what is going to come next, or is unsure of what is expected of them, or feels unsafe. Learning is actually not possible in this space. But when children feel safe and know what to expect, their opportunity to flourish broadens tremendously.
Below are photos of some of our initial greenhouse projects successfully created by students. How do you help ease transitioning in your child or student’s life (or even your own)! Scroll down below the photos to post a comment and share your insight!