Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tears and Cheers

It’s certainly “back-to-school time” in Wisconsin. I can almost feel a buzz, an emotional hum in the community, as parents, teachers, and kids express a mixed-bag of relief, fear, excitement, and dread.

Childcare providers must be feeling shifts as well, as youngsters they’ve seen full-time become students, and perhaps enrollment shift as parents become employed and unemployed in this crazy economy.

As the saying goes, the only thing that doesn’t change is that things are always changing. Who would have thought just a few decades ago that today we’d be asking teachers to help tackle problems like cyber-bullying, the resurgence of whooping cough, and childhood obesity?

Of course, learning really has always been about more than the right answer. Great teachers have always known there are subtle lessons within every lesson. They’ve always known that while the focus may be on a specific skill, there are always non-academic factors in this small person’s development that can help or hinder their ability to learn.

Teachers and childcare providers who have tried youth gardens can tell you just how “holistic” the whole gardening experience has been for the kids. Children learn that gardening can be a lot of work, and that sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you expect. They find out that plants will grow and ripen on their own schedule - whether you are patient or impatient - so you might as well be patient. They grow in confidence and compassion when they are able to share the vegetables from their garden with family and friends.

So in addition to gardening having the flexibility to fit into a lot of different curriculums, there’s also a wide variety of lessons to be extracted from a single gardening experience.

Honestly, sometimes when I really think about just how much we put into the hands of our teachers, our child care providers, and all of the adults who are helping our kids grow, my eyes well up. And the tears are a mixed-bag of relief, fear, excitement … and a hearty cheer of gratitude.

Learn how you can incorporate gardening into your classroom or childcare for FREE at upcoming Got Dirt? workshops http://www.co.brown.wi.us/departments/page_a91dc44f6e83/?department=68d3c3d55278&subdepartment=b2b33ee26bfc