When given the opportunity to care for a plant, children are able to learn a lot about themselves and the world around them. Here are just four great take-aways of that enriching experience.
1. Emotional Competency
Children are born with a sense of oneness to their surroundings. As they grow and the sense of self develops, that begins to overshadow the connectivity they once had to their world. Caring for a plant helps to sustain natural empathy and translate it into an outward behavior of compassion through caring for another living thing. An article in the New York Times, “Teaching Peace in Elementary Schools”, quoted a study from Duke and Penn State researchers which showed that “scores for sharing, cooperating and helping other children nearly always predicted” a person’s future success or failure in school and work.
2. Science and Nature
Children who grow plants from seed to adult experience first-hand the cycle of life and are better acclimated to learning science lessons, especially biology and chemistry, in school. They may not go to class knowing what the word photosynthesis means but they will know what the results of that process are. A basic understanding of the photosynthetic process also helps to create a basis for learning about solar powered energy, while seeing how plants use sun and water to grow can lend gravity to future discussions regarding the impact of climate change.
3. What’s Good about Bad Weather
For many children, especially those who love to romp around outside, a rainy day can be a real downer. Caring for a plant helps children to understand the value of both sun and rain. It also sheds light on the fact that too much sun and warmth can be damaging to living things, including humans. Understanding how a plant can make the most of a rainy day, may help a young child to translate that into their own life experience as well.
Plant care requires some basic math skills. Measuring out the appropriate amount of water to give an indoor plant or determining the height and weight of the produce, such as fruits or vegetables, from a plant and counting petals are all great processes for learning math. Distinguishing the differences in the shape of various leaves is an exercise in basic geometry. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune outlines how math and reading scores of American children have significantly dropped over the years. There is a great and obvious need to acquire basic mathematics through their daily activities in early childhood.