A garden is a place for everyone, where everyone belongs and everyone can participate. There are no requirements. All kids can appreciate a garden on whatever level they can. Whether it is enjoying the sight of butterflies gently bouncing from one flower to another, or the smell of mint, basil or the many other varieties of herbs growing there, everyone can be a part of a garden.
This is a perfect place for our friends with special needs. Many times, the accommodations that are needed in order for them to participate in a mainstream classroom, waters down the academics that we present them. In the garden, these kids can participate on their level and make a contribution to the collective. There are no grades, reading levels or guidelines that make it difficult for them. There are not as many barriers for them to really feel success.
A garden is a place that they can be proud of. Since participation is easy and there are few obstacles, kids with special needs can truly feel that they are a part of it all through their participation as well as their tasty harvests. The garden belongs to everyone and everyone can feel that pride.
At our school, we have many jobs that are perfect for our special friends. Some of these jobs include watering, weeding, moving composting bins from the cafeteria to the compost bin in the garden and harvesting crops. We also use the garden for kids who need breaks. Rather than sitting on the computer or drawing or free time, a walk in the garden can help them take a healthier break by walking, getting outside and breathing in fresh air.
Having an American Heart Association Teaching Garden at our school has been rewarding for everyone and kids with special needs have benefited from it just like everyone else. We are all in this together!
If you don’t have a garden at your school, I challenge you to start one. It doesn’t take much. You can start small in pots and get others on board before you expand. There are many resources as well as grant money out there to get started and it’s only a search away. Good luck and get started!
Kim Aman is a public school teacher working towards integrating school curriculum and farming at Moss Haven Elementary School.
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