Teaching Hong Kong children about gardening inspires book

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 June, 2015, 6:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 June, 2015, 11:35am

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Sometimes the idea for a book presents itself like a duck to water - very organically. This happened for my latest book, My Garden, My Friend, except in this case like a five-year-old to an old gardener.

For many years my partner and I have installed micro-gardening systems at Hong Kong schools, holding regular workshops in preschools, kindergartens, primary and secondary institutions and at special needs education schools. We constantly enjoy meeting and working with children and young adults of various ages and abilities who show keen interest in gardening.

The beauty of matching youngsters' genuine desires to understand a new study with successful outcomes offers more than the odd benefit or two. As a 12-year-old told us: "Gardening is amazing. I create things that I then can eat."

Gardening is amazing in how tiny seeds transform into splendid, scrumptious-tasting and exotic-looking plants that so excite gardeners.

For children, such new adventure stimulates more innovative exploration and approaches. They discover a fascinating and pleasing subject that adds value to their schoolwork and days. We observe how truly engaged they become, with their noses virtually touching the plants, as they marvel at the latest fruiting tomatoes.

When I asked another very young gardener why her vegetables looked so wonderfully healthy, she said: "I love the seeds first, then I put them in the soil." She told me this while giving me a look as if to say: "Don't you know this?"

As children become more involved in gardening, their confidence grows, like their plants. It's a pleasure to observe how their early clumsy efforts at hands-on work and uncertainty about gardening soon evolves into careful handling of tools and plants and considerable focus on the tasks at hand.

It's a pleasure to observe how their early clumsy efforts at hands-on work and uncertainty about gardening soon evolves into careful handling of tools and plants and considerable focus on the tasks at hand

We encourage children to exchange views and ideas about everything they learn in garden environments. They need little encouragement. Gardening sessions regularly buzz with information exchanges, shared personal skills, debates and even declarations of wonderful discoveries. A science-minded youngster proclaimed proudly in a workshop: "After I water the plants, I see that they are happy."

With a hand-made protractor, he had measured the leaves' angles shortly after watering his plot. Before watering, he had made measurements too. As he eagerly assured us, the leaves had lifted from their drooping positions and, after watering, stood proudly erect.

At harvest times when the responsibility to nurture and maintain plant growth ends, a heightened sense of joy and achievement fills gardens. One class became so animated when harvesting new potatoes that the students hardly could restrain their excitement about taking home harvest shares. We considered this an educational goal well met.

My partner and I receive enormous satisfaction from interacting with these inspirational gardeners. The children constantly inform and remind us that gardening's a natural instinct which is shared by all, regardless of age.

It should surprise no one how children quickly gain the basic knowledge and skills to cultivate plants and feed themselves at harvest times.

Such gardening comments and ideas are inspirational. As a young grower fortunate enough to have her own small garden at home said passionately: "My garden is always open."