Wee Green Fingers – Growing Together

Does gardening have a positive impact on children's wellbeing?

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

A inquiry that explores the wonders of gardening with children and does gardening really have a positive impact on children’s well being!

Introduction

In doing this project it will extensively explore the wonders of gardening with the children’s
well being at heart and will further support, extend and model to our parents to fully
understand the importance of gardening and get them on board.
Threaded throughout the influence has been Froebel Principles, theory such as Helen Tovey
and Froebel himself, current documentation such as Realising the Ambition, Out to Play and
My Active World and the most important the voices of our staff, children and parents.
This enquiry will hopefully engage, influence and shape our thinking further on a play based
pedagogical approach for children’s well being and learning.

Context

In the beginning of the project I wanted to extend the life of gardening in the nursery as I
know that children are engaged and focused best when outdoors and have a purpose. I wanted
children to be involved in buying, growing and have the responsibility of looking after and
caring for their produce now they have an established spot to garden and have the sense of
‘Freedom with Guidance’ to enhance their well being.
Children have already been involved in planting their seeds, making their own grow chart to
visibly see what they are growing, they are nurturing and taking on the responsibility of their
plants/seeds ready to plant outside. It keeps children engaged and focused in their learning
and that is highly encouraged.
In my mind I wanted to get a group of parents involved with our established garden area to
extend the learning and maintain and support children’s well being such as clearing, digging,
planting and maintaining the space for children to enjoy and grow together. However I know
that the commitment is a huge a step to up keep such an area so I had to consider my next
step. I was resourceful and knew of one very keen individual parent who has this interest as a
hobby and being intuitive I knew this would benefit her well being considerably, together we
could share skills and knowledge.

The project aimed to look at ‘the impact that gardening has on children’s well being’.
I set out to gather as much reading, research and observations to see how much gardening is
having an impact on our children. I know looking through a Froebelian lens and the
principles such as autonomous learners, I had to consider each child as an individual and the
involvement was pertinent to that child.
It was most appropriate to have a triangulation of learning involving staff, children and a
parents to be able to have a clear vision of the research and how it has an impact.
Participating in this research I have used forms online questions to communicate with all
parents in the setting and get responses of how they think gardening has an impact on their
children’s well being and to get a feeling of out the nursery how we can extend and support
the learning. Research highlights the positive impact of gardening:
“It develops children’s sense of wonder for nature, growing and exploring” (Tovey,
2020)”
I have been fortunate to involve a parent in a discussion to understand how gardening has
impacted her children’s well being and revealing how much it has supported mental health
and well being of her personally. This lead to her sharing her skills and we drew up a plan of
the next course of action.
The key for my research is being able to observe children in their play inside and out which is
valuable and resourceful. I know from documentation ‘Out to play’ (2020) that it highlights
the importance of providing a quality outdoor space and creating a nurturing safe and
inspiring experience for children to learn. I was able to mirror these experiences by providing
opportunities such as developing numeracy, literacy and well being from buying seeds,
planting, watering and measuring.
Ensuring the welfare of the children and privacy for parents, I needed to ensure I had
photographic consent, permission for a discussion so that I could collate the information
safely and anonymously. This was also paramount for colleagues when I asked them
questions.

Ethics

In carrying out my project i had to ensure that i had the permission of everyone involved. I made my headteacher, parents and colleagues aware what my intention was for the inquiry and the observation and material i was carrying out. In doing this i knew that what i was carrying out was demonstrating a reliable and efficient account of my gardening project.

" This is supporting my well being as well do you know what I mean, it is a space I can go and potter to relax"

Nursery Parent 2023

Findings

My research findings were clear that children are engaging with nature and enjoy being
outdoors in amongst the soil guddling. The findings from children, parents and staff give a
clear vision that there is an ambition to be involved and eager to learn more and extend on the
knowledge that has already been built up around gardening and growing. It also encourages
children to be outdoors.
“It allows him outside and to get fresh air” (Parent)
Although this was benefiting children being outdoors, I wanted to be able to mirror the same
opportunities inside to keep that spark in children’s learning and passion for gardening. I set
up a corner with soil, seeds, shovels and pots to observe their learning which was so valuable
as children had the freedom and imagination to create what they wanted. Interestingly
practitioners observed children pouring water into the soil, Why? Because after the whole
process of planting what do you do to the seeds, you water them. The children had absorbed
the learning from planting and were continuing it in their own free play. The sense of
freedom was so valuable but children guided themselves, how curious!
Close analysis and observation shows that children really enjoy being involved in the whole
process, from buying the produce to planting. It gave them a vision of what they wanted to
do. They have been involved in carting soil, planting and watering their produce. It has
sparked much conversation about the world and nature around us. It has sparked children’s
sense of wonder ” What will happen if I put that in there?, “Will this grow if I put in the soil”
it is wonderful that children are eager and passionate about their learning.
It has taken us on a journey this project as it came at a critical time for a parent who really
needed a focus at this point of their life. It was so valuable to them but also supported myself
as a researcher to learn so much from her valuable skills and knowledge on gardening that
will continue for life and be passed on.
“This is supporting my well-being as well do you know what I mean, it is a space I can
go and potter to relax” (Anonymous- Parent 2023 )
Further discussion has lead to many other ideas being brainstormed from staff and this
individual parent, such as learning to grow and plant willow. We know that children always
have their voice and this most certainly will influence future projects and the continuous
progression with Wee Green Fingers.
Overall the research has made me more passionate and eager to learn more about the well
being of our children, it has left staff eager to learn more and break down barriers such as
challenging behaviour, weather and time. It has also led to staff doing addtional training for
outdoors with a focus on schematic play and loose parts play that will certainly enhance well
being and support our children from trauma backgrounds, rural poverty and inequality.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion this research project has demonstrated the commitment from parents, children
and staff with helping our garden to be sustainable and taking on responsibility of their own
to look after and nurture their produce. The research undertaken has been influenced by
current documentation and Froebel Principles and practice.
With everyone being on board it has created a calmer environment, extended learning and
involved children and adults right from the beginning. It has allowed children to be
responsible of their own learning and has enhanced their well being.
Overall I feel that it most certainly has created a calmer environment for children to explore
and learn for themselves and for adults to observe the valuable learning that children are
absorbing.
It has been a valuable piece of research that has certainly grown arms and legs and I cant wait
to see what is next!

Research implications

This research project has its roots in our nursery’s 2021 Food for Thought funded gardening project. Its design strengthened those roots and spreads a wider canopy by linking gardening to Froebel principles and to deepening relationships with children and parents so that wellbeing is impacted.

The project was very responsive and sensitive to what some of our families find themselves facing, namely day to day pressures, financial worries compounded by the negative lag effect of Lockdowns. For instance, the project encouraged one parent see that she had worth because of her gardening skills at a time when she felt little self-worth. This meant she accessed the nursery as part of the team and as an equal not as someone who ‘needed help’. She enjoyed nursery as a warm space; as a place of purpose with people who showed her respect.

Therefore, this project is very much something that our nursery can take forward. It is now one of our priorities in our Improvement Plan for next session and we have planned to create a staff/parent/child gardening group and to seek funding for gardening resources.

Although a sensory wellbeing garden is the goal, the process of bringing children, practitioners and parents together to share knowledge, skills and support (such as a warm space) is more important.

Another goal is to see children’s wellbeing and self-worth improved. The Wee Green Fingers project engaged children in real life experiences. They became absorbed in the occupation of gardening in all its physicality, camaraderie and purpose. Some of the children involved had often displayed destructive behaviours and self-defeatist attitudes at nursery. Gardening and engaging with nature certainly improved their self-worth and self-regulation skills. So again, the nursery has made real-life experiences a priority for next year

Practitioner enquiry

The value of such research projects is that they help bond a team and make the setting function better. Being involved in this research has helped our nursery team become more solution focussed. It has deepened our commitment to embed Froebelian principles and practice within our setting and to take part in further research or projects. There is a willingness to help one another because we have all been through the process; not only do we know the benefits but also the difficulties. We have discussed the idea of producing our own ‘academic posters’ to highlight our projects.

Leadership learning

Supporting this project was such a pleasure. It was so touching to see how my colleague supported one parent and how this made a tangible difference to the parent’s life circumstances, even to increasing her child’s attendance at nursery. It was also lovely to see children’s happy, satisfied faces who had just dug and weeded three allotments! I learnt a lot from my colleague, especially the way she linked wellbeing to gardening and showed that she understood the potential of freedom with guidance, engaging with nature and parents to change how children and adults perceive themselves. It was a brilliant way of helping children and one parent feel better about themselves.

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Hazel Devlin
    Hazel Devlin
    13 Jun 2023 at 10:36 am

    I enjoyed reading about your project, I love how this project built relationships with your parents and that you were able to get them involved along with the children and staff, with everyone slowing down to embrace nature and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. I’m sure your project will grow more than arms and legs with everyone onboard. Well done and thankyou for sharing.


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  2. Leona Stewart
    Leona Stewart
    13 Jun 2023 at 1:52 pm

    I thought this was a valuable opportunity for the whole community in developing outdoor access for children and involving parents too. It sounds like very positive family engagement and children learning about nature. Also you seemed to have ignited a real interest for other opportunities outdoors.


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