Those of us who plant gardens—anything from a small patio planter of herbs to a large flower or vegetable patch—know that the body gets a good workout! Not only are gardens a wonderful way to experience nature and reap the benefits of a good crop, they are also an excellent way to keep fit.
No one is sure where “National Gardening Exercise Day” originated but clearly it is reason for celebration! Whatever you plant, there is simple joy in watching it grow. At the same time, the planting, maintaining, and harvesting provides great exercise for the mind and the body. Gardening with kids is a great way to promote sustainability and environmental awareness, as well as healthy eating, mindfulness, and active living.
Besides the therapeutic elements of fresh air and sunshine as we garden, we engage in weeding, digging, spading, planting, pruning, mowing, raking, and walking! And…let’s not forget to exercise the brain too! A garden can provide great ways to get in touch with our senses and feelings. It is a wonderful place to cool down and seek relief from tension. Remember, kids feel stress too!
The following activity can be enhanced by planning a field trip to a local garden centre. Arrange for a worker to take students on a tour and then ask him or her to explain the physical work that goes into maintaining the garden centre. Ask the proprietors if they might have any flowers that could be donated to your school.
If a field trip is not possible, try to obtain at least one flower (with earth, roots etc.) for each student to plant.
In the classroom before your visit:
Provide each student with paper and paint, markers or crayons. Invite them to create a picture of flowers- lots of flowers!
Share the pictures and ask:
Explain that flowers often make people smile. That is why we give flowers to people when they are sick or when they are celebrating something special or even when we just want to do something nice for someone.
Ask students if any of them have planted flowers at home. Share responses. Explain that gardening is also a good way to exercise our bodies. Ask students why they think this is true.
If you are taking a trip to the garden centre, ask students to look for the following:
Then, ask them to listen carefully as the worker describes what has to be done to keep the flowers growing.
In class, explain that gardens don’t get beautiful by themselves. People have to take care of the plants by watering them, weeding them, thinning them, etc., and that means they have to use their bodies!
Have students stand and act out the following physical activities related to gardening as you describe the process:
If you were able to obtain some flowers, take students outside to plant them.
Remind students that they will have to take care of their flowers so that they will grow and be beautiful for everyone to enjoy!
Discuss the elements of gardening that involve physical activity (e.g., squatting, bending, reaching, digging, stretching, etc.)
Ask students why gardening can be as good for your mind as it for your body. Share that besides the experience of fresh air and sunshine that makes everyone feel good, gardening can help to improve your mood and make you feel that you are accomplishing something important. It can also give you an appreciation for the environment and the importance of taking care of our earth.
Explain that spending time in a garden is a great way to relax and enjoy nature. It is also a time to exercise not only our bodies, but our brains as well.
If possible, take students to a garden (or garden centre) and ask them to stop at various points and:
In the classroom, ask students to create a picture, poem, paragraph, play, or song that would describe their experience in the garden. Share.
In closing, remind students that exercising their mind is just as important as exercising their body. Encourage them to re-visit the garden or find another place that allows them to focus on their senses and feelings. Share that this kind of experience can be a good and healthy way of “cooling down” or relaxing their minds when things become stressful.
To enhance any of the activities below, it would be valuable to take students to a garden centre. It would also be helpful if you could ask the centre if they would be willing to donate some seedlings or small plants that the students could use to reach out to their communities.
Share the information in the Introduction. Consider the following activities that students of this age might enjoy: