Teaching Children Gardening

planting with my niece

Most of my school reports, with hindsight weren’t bad ones as such. But, that I remember and am sometimes reminded, they seemed to come with that teachers note at the tail end, the at the time scary bit next to which ones parents signature had to go. They did note the great pupil/ student/ child in its many varying guises…. but their note always seemed to end with an extra added clause reading along the lines of…

if only he concentrated more in class.

My excuse is that I was looking out the window. At the trees. Some called it day dreaming, but it wasn’t. It really was admiring what was great outside. At the very least that’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

I did have my favourite subjects I’ll readily admit and I was generally speaking smart enough to read the book related to whatever current curriculum and moreso and specifically that classroom with windows in which that subject was being thought, just in case it was checked if I knew the answer when I wasn’t entirely paying attention.

My reasons for noting this is that one of my early posts after leaving college with horticultural letters after my name was a horticulture teaching post. That funnily enough was followed by another teaching post but instead of to adults, it was for those around the teen ages.

In the last few months and some ten years plus later and I have found myself giving classes to children as young as six and most recently I have been giving classes on behalf of Dublin’s [fingal] Libraries teaching secondary and primary schools [and adults] about gardening.

Let me sidetrack away from photosynthetic related teachings for just a moment….

I had teachers through my years that I liked. We all did. Everyone I know remembers the teacher that simply [we felt, as students] shouldn’t have been there and equally those that we felt deserved a medal of honour. Not because they knew their subject so well or that they were greater people but more that it really did come across as though they loved – and I mean really loved – what it is they did for a living.

Nurses, mechanics, carers, gardeners you name it…. there are the greats who care, just that extra mile more and love every second of what it is they do. With all their heart. And it shows. Their passion for that topic or profession absolutely shines through. They are those who don’t want to become the Head or the Principal or the Chairperson – solely because it means they won’t be on the ground floor, living, eating and breathing that subject that they love and in return they forsake the pay rise and the swivel arm-chair as versus the plastic bog standard version.

I guess what I am trying to say is that whilst attempts maybe are being made to bring gardening into all of our schools and to our children. Efforts that are bringing being green into the classrooms and following that into our homes, we, should I guess tread carefully in so far as that it doesn’t become a subject and a have to do. Gardening was never something I had to do, not even as part of the curriculum.

I used to grow plants under my bed. I remember taking the old coke bottles apart and using the then black hard base as an excess water collector so the carpet didn’t get wet. I remember cycling about five or six miles on my grifter bicycle to buy a bag of compost with my pocket-money. I remember my first bulb – a hyacinth that cost seven pence. My first cuttings of geraniums. My first attempt growing seeds of Radish alongside my Grandfather and my second attempt without him when my seeds failed in their entirety because I had dug a trench three-foot deep and put them at the bottom of it. At the time, it broke my heart. What you should consider also is that my parents and Grandparents were not gardeners. We did the summer patch, the same as everyone else – but they were not merited gardeners in any format.

I’m not saying I am the horticultural messiah. What I will say is that I know what subjects through school and horticultural college that I loved more. And why. I remember those so kindly who inspired me because they thought and spoke from their heart. Those, in that I could see, it was more than just a job. Maybe it is because of them, maybe, that I will never be a wealthy man monetarily speaking.

The alternate….? For me, gardening was always a want,  a need and above all it was in it’s every definitive meaning, inspiration in my life. And I love it dearly.

Contact Peter Donegan

Teaching Children Gardening originally published in The Tribesman week Monday 19th September
3 replies
  1. M
    M says:

    I agree Peter. Now that the kids are a little bit older (no one in nappies!) we are seeing a direct correlation between their relationship with food and gardening. This was our first successful year in letting them grow their own plots of ‘food’ and they did a cracking job. In addition to that, we used ‘weeding the poly tunnel’ as a form of discipline and this has resulted in a few very young budding gardeners. Nice and warm and quiet in there. Perfect place to daydream.

    My teachers (all wrote, and still write) that ‘Móna could do so much better if she would only focus on her work and stop daydreaming’…….Yep.

  2. peter donegan
    peter donegan says:

    Hi Mona,
    once again, your comment here has made me smile.
    Might I ask…. was what they grew of their choice or Mom’s and also what are the plans for the children growing/ gardening for the coming autumn/ winter seasons ?
    Admiring your work as a gardener and a Mom. Very well done.

  3. Móna Wise
    Móna Wise says:

    My husband can take all the gardening credit. He has the green thumbs. I am a dab hand at cutting the grass and wheeling wheelbarrows of compost to the poly tunnel for him ;0).

    The kids were allowed to choose from our selection of seeds. They grew a lot of rocket and perpetual spinach (they love these for salads and wraps), nasturtiums and borage (for salads), scallions, golden beets and now A LOT of summer squash (courgettes etc). The winter planting is mostly all cabbage, carrots, beets, horseradish, parsnip. The kids tend to loose interest once back to school – but still pick the carrots for their lunch boxes.

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