What is experiential garden education for elementary school students

A challenge for education in the 21st century

Education systems around the world are facing a conundrum and a challenge: how to equip students with skills needed for the future. Historically, the future hasn’t been changing as drastically as it is now. Factor in technology and the playing field is turned on its head; demanding higher levels of critical and analytical thinking, innovation and creativity in future workforces.

To cope with the demand of producing more competent students able to adapt to the demands of the 21st century, researchers and educational practitioners have been working tirelessly to find alternatives to the current way of doing education. For starters, it’s now a known fact that changes must begin at the lowest levels of education and sustained throughout for it to amount to meaningful learner outcomes. Previously, this hadn’t been the case. That’s when early childhood psychologists and educators decided to look for solutions and one that has been consistently shown to be making a difference is experiential learning through garden education.

Experiential learning through garden education

Psychologists and educators have explored the concept of hands-on learning as one of the most promising approaches to education. Experiential garden learning is one of many approaches that has garnered the support and interests of educators nationwide.

Elementary schools have been the focus populations to implement experiential garden programs. At this stage in learning, students have plenty of questions and they want to know more about how the world works. Experiential learning allows them to observe real events and formulate their own opinions through engaging with their peers and their environment with a teacher’s guidance.

Experiential learning through gardening seeks to engage students in thinking and doing. It seeks to foster and include a variety of intelligence that may exist within students; a fact the current system of education has been ignoring. Furthermore, it provides a change of venue where students can engage with learning with their hands. They can learn from observation on concepts such as the plant cycle, soil types, insect identification, fruits, and vegetables. Such exposure to real-life implications of abstract concepts can has been shown to be highly impactful in student learning outcomes.

Learning through gardening has several components that make it effective:

  • Student-directed learning, leading to active engagement
  • Learning of real-world implications and issues relating to gardening such as world hunger and growing and selling produce to the surrounding community
  • Create hypotheses and generate original ideas and solutions
  • Working in teams to develop emotional intelligence when working with others
  • Create meaningful associations between theory learned in the classroom and hands-on experience. This connection is the bridge between knowledge and application, ensuring meaningful learning has taken place.
  • Numerous programs have been implemented to test whether hands-on garden learning is an effective learning tool. Educators working with children praise the approach given its merits and students are excited to engage with what they learn in the classroom. As research continues, hands-on learning will likely expand to include other activities to bring learning to life. Soon, learning will reflect real life; without subject boundaries. Practical learning will include all aspects of education and bring them together in a holistic and meaningful way. This is the way education is shaping future human capital.