Growing Emotionally in Gardens

Growing Emotionally in Gardens

Take your students outside, claim a piece of the school’s yard, and allow your students the opportunity to grow some plants. There are numerous benefits for students and teachers to being outdoors, and the simple act of caring for plants has been proven to satisfy some of our basic psychological needs.  

Gardens are places for people to grow their own crops or flowers. But outdoor spaces are much more than just green thumb areas. Working in a garden can be an ideal place for kids to grow plants and to grow emotionally as well. Participating in garden activity with other children is an opportunity for them to cooperate and practice their social interaction skills. Being able to learn some science and also grow socially are a great bonus to having a class garden. 

Research has shown that being in natural spaces and gardens can have a positive impact for children. When kids are outdoors in gardens with other students, they get valuable outdoor time and get to enjoy some sunshine and some fresh air. Additionally, outdoor time also has positive physical and mental benefits on the health of both youth and adults. Some of these benefits include decreasing stress levels and increasing feelings of calm and relaxation. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes the basic psychological needs of students as the following:  

  • Competence: to experience oneself as a subject able to act, to fulfil tasks on one's own 
  • Autonomy: to experience the achievement of goals by one's own, self-determined action 
  • Relatedness: feeling connected and accepted by a group. 

Gardening can help to achieve these goals needs. The process of growing plants provides them an opportunity to take chances with minimal risks. This allows them to learn to monitor and manage their emotions with their success and their failures. While they are caring for their plants, they are given opportunities to work with other children in groups, engaging with their peers and, with proper supervision and guidance, allows them opportunities to learn how to peacefully resolve conflicts. This leads to a better understanding of compassion and empathy. During this process they will also have a chance to see and celebrate diversity as they come into contact with children from varied backgrounds.  

These are all goals attainable just by working with plants outdoors, but all of this requires that the students are given responsibilities and not required outcomes. Yes, the goal of a garden is to produce fruit, vegetables, and/or flowers, but the students should be given the responsibilities required of them to care for the garden and not goals of grown plants. There are variables that can affect the success of the garden that can be beyond the students' control such as weather and critters. Placing the expectation of success can be detrimental to the students’ socioemotional growth.  

It has been proven that garden-based learning promotes cooperative behavior. This is due in large part to frequent social interactions and positive emotions associated with growing plants. Students enjoy the break from traditional classroom activities in order to be outdoors with a garden that they have a personal stake in. Give your students the time to do some outdoor lessons. 


Try our Full Year Raised Garden Program here!

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