Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Pedagogical Value of Gardens

NPR has been running a series on financial literacy in which people are arguing that it is essential to work into middle and high school curricula modules teaching children about money and how to handle it. Last week, I was chatting with someone who made a similar claim about a different aspect of human life -- food. She contended that all schools should have gardens. No child, she argued, should be considered educated who has not acquired some sense of how food grows and what it looks like when harvested. I didn't mention to her that my children's school does exactly that and during the spring, they spend time getting their hands in the soil and enjoying the fruits -- or vegetables -- of their labors as a class. It is something I really love about their school. It makes me think of the end of Candide. Perhaps part of learning is tending to one's garden in a non-metaphorical sense.

But is the general claim true? Is this just a nice thing or should ALL schools have a garden? Are there lessons one learns in the garden that are essential and can be learned no other way?