Gardens have much to teach kids

By Tsering Choden

As a student of Environmental Studies, I would like to draw the readers’ attention to the need for nature-based experiential learning in children’s curriculum. In an urban setting such as New York City, it is critical that children’s learning experience extends beyond classroom walls and the limited number of field trips outside the city. One good way to make sure of this is to incorporate garden-based learning programs in schools. Gardens make a great learning resource for the children as it can be integrated very well with their academic learning goals and help them to develop a holistic perspective of the world.

In the light of growing concerns for childhood obesity and food insecurity, especially in inner city schools, garden-based learning provides the children with a good exposure to healthy and local food systems. Also, there are several research findings that show garden-based-learning supports students’ academic achievement and improves their interpersonal and cooperative skills. Garden-based learning is a form of place-based-education that promotes learning through experience and helps in building social capital in the community. It also fits within the broader framework of environmental education, equipping the children of today with knowledge and concepts that will help them become informed and active citizens.

Contrary to the notion of lack of green space in urban settings, there is ample space for the growth of urban gardens in New York City. Nationwide campaigns such as Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and the USDA’s Farm-to-School initiative are further promoting school garden projects. Moreover, New York City’s own initiative—NYC Grow to Learn—provides funds, resources and technical assistance that are specific to each city public school and the community’s needs.

School gardens, such as the one in Brooklyn Arbor Elementary School or in PS 55 in the Bronx (which works in conjunction with a non-profit, Green Bronx Machine) are already at work in changing the urban landscape in Brooklyn and Bronx and preparing the next generation of dynamic citizens.

Therefore, as stakeholders of Queens, we definitely need to champion for more school gardens.

Tsering Choden


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