April is National Gardening Month, making it an ideal time to consider starting a garden. Those who do will be joining some 43 million other homes in the country whose owners maintain a garden, according to the National Gardening Association. It is also a good time to consider getting children active in gardening since they are increasingly spending more time indoors, with their faces turned toward electronics. There are many benefits that kids can gain from getting into gardening.
“Getting kids away from the electronics and introduced to gardening is a great way to get them involved in a positive habit that can last a lifetime,” explains Sylvia Bernstein, president of The Aquaponics Source, and author of the book “Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together” (New Society Publishers, October 2011). “The skills they learn gardening will remain with them well into adulthood. They will also make a connection to and appreciation for the process of how food gets to their table.”
Gardening can provide many benefits, including being a calming experience. Here are 5 other reasons to get youth active in gardening:
1. Health. Many kids who help to grow food will end up eating what they have grown. This is a great way to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. They will have a better appreciation for foods they have gardened.
2. Environmental awareness. There are many benefits of children learning about the environment. Getting them involved in gardening, especially aquaponic gardening, will help them make a connection with the environment and nature. In addition to gaining an understanding of food systems, they will learn how everything is inter-connected.
3. Something new. Many kids do the same things over and over. Gardening is an activity that most kids are probably unfamiliar with. This gives them a new activity and exposes them to something completely new, thus expanding their horizons and experiences.
4. Hands-on experience. Schools today primarily have children learning from books and computers, rather than hands-on experiences. A garden gives a child the opportunity for tactile learning. They can see that what they do has an impact and watch their efforts pay off with edible results.
5. Academic enrichment. There are academic benefits that children can gain from gardening. Without realizing it, through gardening kids will be learning about science, math, nutrition, health, and more. It will help to enrich their academic experience overall.
Because of the many benefits that gardening and aquaponics provides children, there are even classrooms now setting up aquaponic gardens. Children can actively participate in the aquaponics process and see how the fish produce nutrients that nourish the plants, while the plants filter the water for the fish. Aquaponic gardening is also becoming more popular because this form of sustainable gardening can be done anywhere, is easy to do, and is a fun process.
“We see kids come into our center and witness how excited they get about aquaponics added Bernstein. “That’s where real, sustained learning takes place. It starts there. Keep them active with the garden and they not only will food grow, but they will, too!”
The Aquaponic Source is located in Longmont, Colo. It was started by Sylvia Bernstein, an aquaponics expert and author, who has a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of California, Davis. The facility offers a retail store, classes, and a laboratory, and it offers information and guidance for aquaponics gardening in the home and at schools. For more information, visit the site at: www.theaquaponicsource.com.
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