As a society, we have created a disconnect between the farm and the table, and now, generations of fast-food consumers need to reconnect with reality. But it shouldn’t be difficult—what could be easier than teaching kids to garden?
Kids are naturally curious, they like to learn by doing and love to play in the dirt. But kids who garden will learn much more than how to dig in the dirt and pull weeds. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from nurturing living things and observing the cycle of life firsthand. Gardening also gives children a chance to get much-needed fresh air and exercise while they learn useful life skills. Gardening is also a great way to gain appreciation for nature, which helps develop environmental stewardship.
Studies also show that children involved in gardening learn better nutrition and healthy eating habits. And since children absorb information better when they understand its context, they will not only learn that gardening can be fun—but far more than idle play, they will discover that they can contribute to the well-being of their family by harvesting their garden products for the dinner table, no matter how modest their crop. Youth gardening also helps foster responsibility while presenting opportunities to learn through constructive interactions with parents, grandparents and teachers. Studies also indicate that students who participate in weekly gardening and hands-on classroom activities have improved science test scores.
Debra Lordan · Editor/General Manager
With these studies as their motivational force, the first annual Youth Gardening Workshop was held last month, sponsored by the UH Cooperative Extension with assistance from Maui Master Gardeners. The workshop covered a lot of ground, offering participants the chance to take part in hands-on gardening activities on the Maui Community College campus, and learn about the programs and opportunities available to budding gardeners. Grants are also being offered to organizations and schools to enable the development of current and future countywide youth gardening programs by providing financial, technical and horticultural assistance. In addition, UH Extension has also launched the first Youth Gardening Certification program to provide further resources to teachers and community members participating in youth gardening.
These programs give us the opportunity to put “culture” back into agriculture by helping young minds grow while planting the seeds of planetary stewardship.
If a handpicked carrot can inspire our youth, then we should make sure we provide the stick by giving them with the education they will need to cultivate a better future.