The garden provides non-traditional learners the opportunity to thrive. One of the best parts of my job is the smiles of pride and accomplishment I enjoy on students faces during each lesson, sometimes they are beaming because they remembered to include a scale and key, while mapping their new garden plots, or they are excited about the shockingly accurate leaf shape they created on their paper while doing a botanical drawing. But my favorite moments are those when student who may not thrive in a traditional educational setting triumphs in the garden. Last week a student who normally stares at a worksheet for 20 mins , struggling to maintain his attention long enough to answer the first question, happily tells me “ I’m a really good mulcher” during some garden maintenance. The outdoor classroom presents students with learning opportunities that cannot be found in a book behind a desk.
The garden provides a setting where sitting still, and paying attention, is no longer the keys to success. Instead students are asked to use their bodies, creativity and hands as they explore the world around them. A student that has a difficult time listening gets a chance to shine when he or she is strong enough to accomplish a task a classmate was struggling with. Every time the students enter the garden the playing field is leveled a little bit. No single student stands out as the “smartest” or “best reader” like the stereotypes they find themselves falling into in the classroom. Instead I enjoy a garden full of the great “mulchers”, “aphid hunters”, “botanical artists”, and “cooks”, thankfully the list never ends.