School gardens are an excellent tool for experiential learning and nutrition education. Establishing a connection with nature at any early age is extremely important. Research discovered childhood experiences with nature are strongly linked to adult attitudes toward plants. They determined that participation in active gardening during childhood was the most important influence in explaining adult environmental attitudes and actions. A school garden is a powerful environmental education tool. Through gardening, children become responsible caretakers. For many children, a garden offers the only chance to get close to nature. School garden sponsors frequently find their programs provide students their first opportunity to dig into the soil and watch a plant grow.
The garden provides broader life lessons including contributing to student's knowledge of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Our country is experiencing a major health crisis as the number of overweight and obese youth is growing at an epidemic rate. Approximately one in three children are overweight or at risk of being overweight, and almost 40% of school-aged children are considered unfit. The number of weight-related chronic diseases such as diabetes is of great concern to health care professionals, and the need for prevention education is at a critical level. School garden programs can work to overcome this epidemic by teaching youth about healthy lifestyles, proper nutrition, and physical activity. Students gain firsthand experience with fresh fruits and vegetables through garden programs. They quickly learn that produce just doesn't appear magically on grocery shelves. The pride and curiosity sparked by growing fruits and vegetables motivates students to try them, which often leads to more positive eating behaviors. A garden program increases produce availability and creates opportunities to teach students what they should eat through fun, hands-on experience. The garden provides a wide range of physical activity thru digging, planting and weeding. Plus it is an activity they can participate in for the rest of their lives!