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Mindy Paul

Drexel University
Teaching Elementary Students How to Grow Their Own Food
As teachers and perhaps some of you as parents, we have all experienced trying to talk a
young child into eating their fruits and veggies because its good for them and a necessary part of
their diet, however its not always the easiest case to win with a child. Elementary school aged
children dont always like the most nutritional foods, but what if we, as teachers, can change
this? How you might ask? We can help create edible gardens at elementary schools no matter if
you work in an urban, suburban or rural area. If elementary classes and schools created fruit and
vegetable gardens to provide students with the lessons, values, and opportunities to learn how to
grow their own foods they will gain such significant value in their own nutrition and health
among many other important values shared from the garden. Teachers have the advantage of
being able to incorporate lessons of the garden into an integrated curriculum.
Teaching elementary students how to grow their own fruits and vegetables is a lesson in
itself, yet it can create a basis for an entire curriculum. Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social
Studies, Health, Art and even gym can advance by having a garden. It takes a lot of hard work to
keep a garden going so what a great way for children to learn. Students learn how to follow
directions for planting and picking. They learn how to measure soil, fertilizer, water, how deep to
dig a hole, as well as counting the fruits and vegetables once they are picked. Students can create
observation growth journals for Writing and Science, as well as read books on gardening to learn
more about what they are doing which can be incorporated into the Reading curriculum. They
learn about their community and about democracy through gardening which can fit into a Social
Studies curriculum. They learn about nutrition for health and gardening is a quite physically

challenging to fit a gym curriculum. Lastly drawing pictures, drying out leaves, painting and all
sorts of art projects can come from growing a garden for an art curriculum.
Students learn responsibility, cooperation through team work, understanding cause and
effect, and in the process they hopefully gain a love for nature as well as for themselves. A
healthy self-confidence is very important as a young child. What a better way than putting in
work to see ones productivity in their results and being able to enjoy the work they put in. For
every action there is a reaction and gardening teaches us that lesson time and time again. It also
teaches the idea that we can only have so much control over gardening because at the end of the
day Mother Nature has the upper hand. It teaches a sense of respect for nature and our
surroundings. Another advantage to elementary schools having edible gardens is that children get
to use all of their senses when gardening so their appreciation of the outcome is that much more
Students get to see, hear, touch, and taste when working in a garden. They also get to
learn many of the aspects of Blooms Taxonomy. Students get to use previous knowledge of what
they might know about plants, nature, and gardening. They get to make observations, naming the
plants and locating where is the best place to plant the fruits, vegetables and herbs. Hopefully
students learn a new understanding of plants and gardening and discuss with their class the
importance of gardening an edible garden. They can classify the different types of fruits,
vegetables, and herbs they plant. They get the change to apply the knowledge to the action of
gardening and possibly problem solving methods when figuring out and designing where the
plants should be placed for planting in the right light and direction. They also need enough water
and if there becomes an insect issue they may need to overcome the issue to keep the health of
the garden going. Students can see their productivity and they can even critique their gardening

skills and hopefully become a gardening pro for the next year when they can lead creating their
own garden.
Through elementary schools creating edible gardens students learn about sustainability
and how to become more sustainable themselves. They learn by growing their own food that
fruits and vegetables dont just show up in the fresh produce section of the super market but
rather it takes a lot of work and the fruits and veggies should be appreciated. They see how much
work is put into it to see a successful outcome. Children are the future so learning to garden and
the importance of nature will optimistically instill a new generation working hard to save our
environment. A few musts for a school garden is to make sure to use organic seeds and/or
organic fruits, vegetables and herbs as well as using safe products. Schools should never use any
type of pesticides. Remember we are what we eat! Hopefully elementary students find a love for
nature but also gain a love for themselves as well during the learning process of gardening. Plus
kids also love physical activity and fun so its time to get down and dirty and start an edible

Some of the Garden Picks from Summer 2014 at ITB School of Sustainability

ITB Summer Garden 2015 has Begun!

Photos by Mindy Paul

Digital Artifact References

Blooms Taxonomy Poster. Retrieved from [GrowVeg]. (2013, September 13). How to Start a School Garden Help Kids
Grow Healthy Food! [Video File]. Retrieved from

Hebert, T., Martin, D., & Slattery, T. (2014). Growing gardens, growing minds. Science and
Children, 51(7), 52-59. Retrieved from

Higgins, A. (2012). Michelle Obama champions vegetable gardens and healthy food in
American Grown. Retrieved from

Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria Inc. (2012). Gardening for Children. Better Health
Channel. Retrieved from

Instagram for @itbkids.

Instagram for @pottedperfection.

ITB School of Sustainability. 5200 Wynnefield Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19131.

Katzman, Rebecca (2014). FoodCorps Teaches Kids to Grow Their Own Food. Modern Farmer
Media. Retrieved from

Paul, Mindy. Growth From the Garden. 2014. JPG.

Paul, Mindy. ITB School of Sustainabilitys Edible Garden. 2014/2015. JPG.

Potted Perfection LLC.

Wallace, M. (2006). Social Studies: All Day, Every Day in the Early Childhood Classroom.
Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA

Western Growers Foundation. [Westerngrowersassoc]. (2012, August 24). 7 Tips for Head Start
and Pre-school Edible Gardens. [Video File]. Retrieved from