What Gardeners Think About Kids Gardening

By Bruce Butterfield

Ninety-seven percent of all U.S. households, or an estimated 107 million households, said they thought schools should provide gardens and hands-on gardening activities for kids, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the National Gardening Association (NGA). Of that total, thirty-nine percent of households felt that gardening activities should be implemented in schools whenever possible, 24 percent felt that gardening activities should be offered as an extracurricular activity only, 19 percent felt that gardening activities should be implemented in every school, 14 percent said gardening activities should be implemented in schools whenever convenient, and only 3 percent said gardening activities should not be offered in schools at all.

The survey, entitled "What Gardeners Think," was the first poll conducted by NGA to address attitudes about kids gardening. It was an outgrowth of NGA's annual National Gardening Survey, which since 1973 has tracked trends in the consumer lawn and garden market.

The survey also found that people value the extensive benefits of involving kids in gardening activities:

  • 45 percent of all U.S. households said, "Teaching kids about gardening could help them respect and better relate to the environment."
  • 42 percent said, "Gardening is a good way to involve kids in experiential learning."
  • 26 percent said, "Gardening engages children who may be hard to reach otherwise."

"These findings are not surprising to NGA, which for more than 30 years has been supporting educators with plant-based learning materials and curriculum ideas, as well as supplying grants and awards to worthy school gardening programs across the country," says NGA President Mike Metallo. "Recognizing the growing need to enable students to engage in experiential school gardening programs, NGA has established an exciting new initiative called the Adopt a School Garden program to link private and corporate donors with schools in need of funds for plant-based education projects."

Research has consistently demonstrated that plant-based education not only enhances learning of science and a variety of other academic subjects, but it also can have a positive impact in other important aspects of children's lives, including increasing awareness of health and nutrition; building self-esteem; improving attitudes toward school and the environment; enhancing social, physical, and psychological development; and nurturing creative thinking and problem solving.

Educators recognize the value of school gardening programs, and more and more schools today are including some type of school garden and gardening activities in their curriculum. Last year NGA assisted more than 700 school and community projects with grants and awards, reaching approximately 21,000 children. However, because of funding limitations, another 1,291 projects did not receive support. That's why private and public funding is so vital.

In 2016, the National Gardening Association  and Kids Gardening separated into separate entities. The NGA's focus remains on educating, inspiring, and encouraging gardens and gardeners of all ages, while KidsGardening.org continues the vision of gardening in schools. 

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