Teaching gardening to children and young people with special education needs has a positive impact on their development says the Royal Horticultural Society. This is a key finding from a year long outreach project undertaken by the RHS in 2009 -10.
Pupils’ ages in the project ranged from four to 16 and they had conditions such as Autistic Spectrum Conditions, Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties, Cystic Fibrosis, hearing impairment and Dyslexia. The emphasis of all sessions with the Project Officer was to give students practical, hands-on gardening experience and for teachers to learn skills so that they could work with the pupils between visits. The practical and process-orientated nature of gardening was seen to be particularly appropriate to the visual and learning-through-doing needs of some of these pupils.
Pupils showed an improved level of participation in activities and embraced a new level of responsibility for their own learning and progress. Those who had preferred to work independently developed improved team working skills. Gains in confidence and self esteem also made them more resilient and happy to persevere with challenging tasks.
Teachers were also enthusiastic with one comment: “I think that a lot of our pupils learn much more when they are doing practical things. By doing gardening they learnt about other subjects at the same time such as maths, English and science. Lots of our pupils learn by doing and having hands on experiences. That’s where gardening is really, really important in our school.”
Pupils were also very positive. “Gardening is a useful thing as it calms me down. It’s a relaxing thing to do. I hope I come back to work in the polytunnel in Year 10. It has been a good experience,” a Year 6 pupil enthused. “I will do gardening forever.”