March is a prime time to start thinking about starting a garden. Many schools are starting gardens as a way to teach kids about where their food comes from, a fact that many do not know. Many kids believe that fruits and veggies come from the local grocery store and are unaware that they start off as seeds or blooms. Gardens can also serve as a hands-on learning lab for teachers where core subjects like math and science come alive through relevant activities. Instead of having the students create basic line graphs; teachers can instead have them graph the growth of their seedlings.
Gardens can also be used as a springboard for teachers and health professionals to start the conversation about nutrition with kids. In addition, gardens help to increase children’s fruit and vegetable intake. Research has shown that involving children in the gardening process has a positive impact on their fruit and vegetable consumption. Likely this increase in consumption is related to the children’s hand-on experience with gardening. Their apprehension towards fruits and vegetable, many of which they likely are not familiar with, decreases because they literally get their hands dirty and are involved in the gardening process. Increasing children’s fruit and vegetable intake is a bonus with gardening, since many do not consume the recommended amounts each day.
Interested in breaking ground a garden at your school or in your community, but do not know where to start? The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has developed two resources –Got Dirt? and Got Veggies? – that will guide you the right direction to starting a garden and tying in nutrition to the hands-on educational experience.
Got Dirt?: This easy-to-use garden toolkit provides you with a framework for starting a fruit and vegetable garden. It is designed to walk you through the basic steps of starting and maintaining a garden.
Got Veggies?: This is a garden-based nutrition education curriculum created with the goal of getting children to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. This curriculum provides an all around great way to nurture students’ interest in growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables!