What’s so good about kids and gardening? Just about everything. There is a huge range of benefits when kids of all ages get outside and with Schools Tree Day (31 July 2021) and National Tree Day (1 August 2021) coming up, there’s no better time to get into the garden. This week on School Stream, we’ve created a list of five new gardening ideas for kids and teens. Whether your students are learning remotely or in the classroom, we hope you find an activity to inspire. 

School Stream streamlines school communication – whether you’re teaching remotely or face to face – we are here to help you. Find out how we can support you to communicate easily in real-time with parents, or read on for our gardening feature.

Benefits of gardening for kids of all ages

Gardening is an act of optimism, hope and, when it comes to kids of all ages, has much to recommend it. Here is a quick round-up of some of the most recent research: 

5 Great Gardening Ideas

1. 3D Nature Suncatcher

This activity meets at the sweet spot of nature appreciation, plant ID and creativity. With the right amount of educator support, this activity can work for all students from toddlers to teens and is suitable for all weather and seasons. For this activity you need a box, clear contact (sticky backed plastic), leaves, flower petals, ferns etc, scissors and a box cutter knife. Cut “window holes” in each side of the box leaving a frame around each opening. Apply contact paper to each (inside) side of the box – sticky side facing out. Let students arrange their leaves or flowers on each side and then seal with another layer of contact. Voilà! You have created a 3D nature suncatcher. Find the full instructions online here. 

2. Newspaper pots and Egg Pots.

Raising seeds is a very satisfying activity and this gardening essential has been given an upcycling twist by Gardening Australia. Newspaper pots are easy to make and are a great little vessel in which to raise fast germinating seeds like zucchini or pumpkin. You can find the instructions on their website. Once your students have created as many pots as they need, they can plant seeds in seed raising mix and continue to nurture them once they have been transferred to the garden. After 4-6 weeks, the whole pot breaks down, adding organic matter to the garden. Other seeds to try are broad beans, sweet peas, cress or beans. This quick video shows how to make egg pots too.

3. DIY Bean Pole Cubby with runner beans or other climbers

Kids love a cubby and this living hidey spot gets bonus points for providing shade, beans and an opportunity to teach observational and practical skills. For this project, you will need six-ten poles (bamboo is great because it is lightweight which makes it both safe and easy to work with), some twine and runner bean seeds. Find a sunny spot and mark out a circle to act as the diameter of your cubby – you need 60cm between each pole. Then build the frame by angling the poles towards the centre to create a cone shape. Next, tie the poles together where they meet at the top with twine – don’t forget to leave space for a little entry door! Plant the seeds on each side of the pole. They should start to germinate in about a week and once they are big enough to be handled, tie them loosely to the pole. From there they should climb by themselves and create a sweet little cubby and a bounty of beans.

4. Build a worm tower for composting fun

A worm tunnel is an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and demonstrates composting in action. Young children will need educator support for this activity, but teens who are confident using a drill could complete this task independently. Take a piece of PVC pipe at least 150mm in diameter and 50 centimetres long to allow for around 30cm in the ground and at least 20cm above ground. Next, drill a series of 5mm holes in the bottom half of the pipe to create airflow and allow worms to come and go. (At this point, younger children might like to decorate the top half of their worm tower – if you sand the pipe first, paint will adhere better). Dig a hole for the tower so it is buried to 30cm and then backfill around it. Add some bedding material for your worms starting with compost, some finely chopped veggie scraps and strips of wet newspaper. Then add some compost worms – for each tower will need between 20-50 to get started. Finally, pop a lid on to keep pests out. The worms will chomp through this quickly, so check on it and add more as needed. There are lots of tutorials for this project online if you need more details. 

5. Turn a Sweet Potato into a House Plant

Sprouting sweet potatoes is a fun activity that requires little in the way of resources. They grow as rambling vines with heart shaped leaves and make a good houseplant. All you need is a sweet potato, a big jam jar filled with warm water, some toothpicks and a warm bright spot. Stick three toothpicks into the potato about halfway down, all the way round, and rest these on the rim of the jam jar. Half the potato – make sure it’s the pointier end – will sit inside the jar in about 2.5cm or so of water. Place on a warm windowsill and top-up the water as it dries out. In about two weeks, leaves and roots will begin to appear. When the roots hit the bottom of the jar, plant the sweet potato in a bigger pot and display.

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