Green fingers boosts young minds, survey finds

GARDENING can boost a child's development and make them happier, more resilient and confident.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is calling for school gardening to be used as a key teaching tool, rather than simply as an extra-curricular activity.

Researchers at the National Foundation for Educational Research surveyed 1,300 schoolteachers and studied ten schools in depth to examine the impact of school gardening on pupils.

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The findings show teachers who use gardening as part of learning report that it helps to improve children's readiness to learn and encourages them to become more active in solving problems.

It also helps to boost literacy and numeracy skills.

The report says: "Fundamental to the success of school gardens in stimulating a love of learning was their ability to translate sometimes dry academic subjects into practical, real-world experiences.

"Children were encouraged to get their hands dirty – in every sense. Teachers involved in the research said the result was a more active, inquisitive approach to learning."

The report adds: "The changeable nature of gardening projects – where anything from the weather to plant disease can affect the outcome – forced children to become more flexible and better able to think on their feet and solve problems."

The researchers found that exposing small children to insects or worms helped them to overcome their fears, while waiting for crops to grow teaches children patience.

Gardening also helps to teach children about healthy living and healthy eating, with youngsters more willing to try new vegetables if they had grown their own crops.

Dr Simon Thornton Wood, director of science and learning at the RHS, said, "As the new coalition government considers a new approach to the primary curriculum, we hope they acknowledge the striking conclusions of our research and that gardens enable a creative, flexible approach to teaching.

"Schools which integrate gardens into the curriculum are developing children who are much more responsive to the challenges of adult life."