This summer, I am growing a vegetable garden for the first time in my life. The family that I am housesitting for is leaving behind a mini garden of tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers and more under my charge. Not only do I water them daily, but a week ago I also got to participate in planting them. As I got down on two knees, hands deep in the earth to create a safe new home for the baby vegetables, I’d never felt more responsible for the tiny plants. It has been a week, and the peas are already shooting out of the ground. In addition to watering them in the evening, I visit the garden every morning—just to check on how they are doing. Each day I am amazed by the speed at which they grow and how responsive they are to conditions like heat and rain. I’m excited about what these plants can teach me over the summer as they grow and grow.

Indeed, taking care of gardens has proven to have many educational benefits, and schools around the country are noticing its potential in education. Studies have shown that school gardening brings both health and academic benefits, making it an attractive project for many elementary schools. In 2013, about 27 percent of US public elementary schools reported having a school garden.

John J. Pershing Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, is one of them. With the help of REAL School Gardens, a program that brings gardens to school, Pershing Elementary School planned and built their garden four years ago. Ever since the garden was planted into the curriculum, students have been scoring better on standardized tests and have become more excited about school in general.

The children of Pershing Elementary School are not alone in benefitting from the presence of a school garden. School gardens have been shown to improve access to nutrition knowledge, teaching children how to make healthier choices. Children who participate in school garden programs, when compared to others who do not, are more likely to choose fruits and vegetables when they are available. These children also spread their knowledge to their families, bringing healthy eating habits into the house. School gardens also showed health benefits beyond meals. A two-year study involving 12 elementary schools conducted by Cornell University found that having school gardens resulted in an increased physical activity level for children, both at school and at home.

Did You Know?

Thinking about starting a garden but don’t know where to start? Radishes grow only in about 20 days, come in wide varieties of size, color, shape and taste, and can be planted both in spring and in fall. They are a perfect fit for gardening beginners.

Photo Credit: Lalobiozar