As part of my certification requirements I’ve been completing an Alternative Placement this Spring/Summer. I chose to complete a Learning Garden placement, where I basically spend 75 hours gardening/researching/creating. This placement has been fantastic because I’ve learned a lot, really enjoyed being outside, and developed this new appreciation for the natural world. This might sound like a bit much, but it’s how I truly feel, and I’ll explain.
When I started this assignment in April I really had no clue about anything to do with gardening or plants in general; everything I knew came from the Magic School Bus episode where the class learns about photosynthesis. I started by listening to podcasts for beginning gardeners, specifically one podcast about “things we wish we had known when we first started gardening”. This post I loved, and listened to repeatedly because it was bursting with what to do’s and what not to do’s when starting a garden. This podcast also gave me some confidence in my adventure, because it proved that even the experts started out somewhere – making mistakes just like the rest of us.
My gardening journey continued with more research hours than I can count, and several trips to the garden centre at Canadian Tire where I simply walked around and looked at stuff, trying to understand exactly what was out there. I grew some cucumber plants and I killed some marigolds. I filled planters and my dog knocked them over. I struggled against the withering heat and the wilting cold. Such, apparently, is the strife of a gardener.
Throughout this journey, I think that the most important thing I’ve learned is that growing things is hard, and we do not give nature the credit that it deserves. Look outside your window right now and consider what nature has created around you. I’m looking at the grass on my lawn, the shrubs and flowers on my walkway, the tree in my front yard, the wetlands across the road, and the forests beyond it. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Nature creates these incredible things, and so often they go unnoticed. When you have the opportunity to watch something grow, it’s truly spectacular. In my kitchen window box I watched tiny seeds turn into tiny sprouts, then into gangly seedlings, and finally into reaching vines.
When you tune into nature, I guarantee what you see will astound you. Because if you’re really looking, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before despite how close you live. I think that this is an important lesson for our students; to bring them up close to nature and show them exactly what it’s doing right in front of them. In fact, there are so many lessons that can be taught by nature, that I think we’re doing a great disservice to our students by not introducing them. Life and death, caring, balance, sharing, sun and water, the list goes on and on.
I recommend bringing nature into your classroom and taking your classroom outside all year long. Have plants in the classroom, plant seeds together, transplant seedlings into a community garden, take nature walks in your own neighbourhood and in beautiful places like Ontario Parks. Nature is everywhere; are you seeing what I’m seeing?
What are your experiences with nature and gardening? How do you bring the natural world into your classroom? Do you have any great activities involving environmental education? Love Ontario Parks? Share your thoughts in the comments below!