September means school is back in session. The kids have had the summer of to play outside and recharge, but have they been running through the sprinkler in the backyard or playing video games in the living room? Children today spend less time outdoors than in any generation past, and therefore have less connection with our natural world.
School gardens are a great way to get students digging in the soil and stimulate their curiosity about the environment around them. Evergreen Gene’s Garden Center has worked with Hilltop Elementary School for four years taking classes out to a garden we installed in front of the Judith P. Hoyer Early Childcare Center. They can now identify mint, harvest green beans, and marvel at the bees on the sunflowers. Anne Arundel County Public Schools have included a Monarch Butterfly Garden into the first grade curriculum. According to Melanie Parker, Coordinator at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center, every school was given milkweed and other native nectar plants to establish a Monarch Butterfly Garden.
The gardens were planted last spring and each school received caterpillars this September. The caterpillars are raised in mesh cubes in the classroom and fed milkweed flowers. After the students observe the monarchs forming a chrysalis and later hatching, they mark the butterflies’ wings before being released. By marking the wings, they can be tracked during their migration south. Research has shown the benefits of school gardens, according to the National Garden Association, on kidsgardening.org, school gardens significantly increase science achievement scores, improve social skills and behavior, instill appreciation and respect for nature that lasts into adulthood, and increases children’s desire to eat more fruits and vegetables.
With all these benefits, why not expand the gardens to include more grade level? One of the main obstacles to school gardens is the labor involved in upkeep. The greater school community must value the garden and help with sweat equity. During the summer, when students are on break, the gardens must be watered and weeded. Not all schools have participation to help keep a garden productive and thriving. Melanie Parker mentioned maintenance as an obstacle to expanding the garden program in Anne Arundel County.
We hope that as your child heading back to the classroom, you will ask them about the butterfly garden, and visit the school to see how the Monarch Garden survived the summer. As more students are isolated from our natural environment, we school gardens can stimulate their curiosity for nature.
Evergreen Gene’s has been keeping Glen Burnie residents green for over 50 years. We make sure our employees are educated so they will feel comfortable answering any and all of your gardening and landscaping questions. You can view our portfolio here to see some of our best residential work. Stop in during our business hours of Monday-Saturday from 8:00a.m. till 6:00p.m. and Sunday from 8:00a.m. till 4:00p.m. Give us a call at 410-766-6877 to confirm our stock of flowers or to ask questions. You can also fill out our online form here for more information.