Given their understanding of creation and the value of learning in an environment in which the hands, heart, and head are engaged, the Warren elementary school in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, decided to start a school garden. Students learning by working with their hands is a key aspect of the Adventist educational philosophy, with many Adventist educational institutions offering the opportunity for students to work in various industries—from food processing to agriculture.
Recent research findings support the value of gardening for students. It develops positive social and interpersonal skills as students work together to achieve a common goal. They develop a greater sense of responsibility and maturity while taking ownership of the need to preserve the life of the plants of which they are in charge. Not only do students become protective of their plants, but a sense of environmental stewardship is fostered. Gardening has also been found to enhance students’ self-esteem and self-understanding as they experience successes in gardening.
Gardening contributes to healthy eating habits, because children are inclined to eat what they grow, with the pride of knowing that they were responsible for its production. It provides an opportunity for cultural integration as students share ideas on plants, their care, and use, from their unique cultural perspectives.
At the Warren school, they are already enjoying some of these experiences as students are eager to go out and tend their garden, recognizing when it needs watering or is being attacked by pests or diseases. They decide among themselves who will take on a particular job each day. The students are benefiting from a unique and valuable experience while they enjoy nature in the way that God intended, and as they develop an appreciation for the environment.
Autley Marrett, principal, Warren elementary school