(Health Secrets Newsletter) A study conducted for Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) found that encouraging children to learn gardening boosts their development by helping them become happier, more confident and more resilient. In addition, gardening helps teach children patience and the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
The study was conducted by researchers at the National Foundation for Children, who surveyed 1,300 teachers and 10 schools. Teachers who used gardening as part of their learning experience reported that it improved children’s readiness to learn. The teachers also reported that gardening encouraged pupils to become more active in solving problems, as well as boosted literacy and numeracy skills. Now the society is urging that gardening should be incorporated as a key teaching tool in schools’ regular curriculum instead of being an optional extra-curricular activity.
The report said: “Fundamental to the success of school gardens in stimulating a love of learning was their ability to translate sometimes dry academic subjects into practical, real world experiences. Children were encouraged to get their hands dirty, in every sense. Teachers involved in the research said the result was a more active, inquisitive approach to learning. The changeable nature of gardening projects – where anything from the weather to plant disease can affect the outcome – forced children to become more flexible and better able to think on their feet and solve problems.”
Dr Simon Thornton Wood, director of science and learning at the RHS, said: “Schools which integrate gardens into the curriculum are developing children who are much more responsive to the challenges of adult life.”
Sadly, gardening has become a lost natural endeavor in much of today’s urbanized societies. As a result, modern man is losing out on a wealth of natural physical and mental health benefits. Gardening provides aerobic, isotonic and isometric exercise, which benefits muscles and bones as well as respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Such benefits help prevent health problems such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis. Strength, endurance and flexibility are also improved by gardening, which makes it one of the best all-round exercises.
Physical exercise such as one gets from gardening releases endorphins, which are natural compounds that alleviate stress and its many negative health consequences. Studies have shown that simply being in a garden lowers blood pressure. Gardening also fosters a good nightâ€™s sleep and exposes people to both healthy sunshine and beneficial immune boosting soil microorganisms.
Gardeners are more likely to eat a wide range of fruit, vegetables, salad and herbs than non-gardeners, even if they don’t cultivate the produce themselves. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is essential to a healthy diet.
In addition to the benefits of physical activity, gardening helps people reconnect with the natural world from whence they sprang. It provides a calm oasis where one is lost in the moment and can be a natural form of meditation that quiets the conscious mind. It can also be a form of self-expression, enabling one to develop creativity and build confidence while allowing a healthy outlet for emotions.
Furthermore, gardening helps develop a sense of achievement where we are able to step back and see the differences we have made and discover the small, important things in life. Gardeners tend to be hopeful and philosophical people who look forward to future seasons, enjoy the present, respect the past and be more accepting when things are not perfect.
Clearly, teaching our children to garden, both at home and at school, will help give them a head start at living and appreciating a more natural and healthy life.
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