Gardening with young people is a great way to spark interest in the natural world. It can serve as the first window into the fascinating workings of our planet; discovering where our food comes from, improving health and wellbeing, and looking after the environment are all big motivators for the next generation.
The first step to involving young people might be to organise an open event, invite a youth group or encourage your volunteers to bring along their children or grandchildren. Let them explore the garden together and run a few hands-on activities. Be guided by them and their interests.
Make some rules
Help young people to see the garden as a fun place, but work with them to introduce some simple rules to keep them safe and happy. Invite the young people to lead on tasks, but demonstrate good practice, such as using, carrying and storing tools safely. Support them to observe insects without handling them and introduce potentially harmful or poisonous plants. Be aware of safeguarding practices when working with young people and vulnerable adults.
A little success goes a long way, and young people are more likely to become hooked on growing if they can witness results quickly. A ‘take home’ plant is a great way to spark their interest – ‘quick-win’ crops such as micro greens sown in recycled plant pots are popular and carnivorous plants or succulents are easy to take home and care for.
Encourage freedom and responsibility
Let young people find things out for themselves, and generate ideas by designating an area that is theirs to plan, plant and care for. Work with them to encourage wildlife, perhaps by creating a wildflower area, or adding a bug hotel, bird or bat boxes, to add further interest.
Put it in context
Use the garden as a tool to introduce global issues – wellbeing, climate change, food security and biodiversity are big motivators for young people. Help them understand the purpose of different tasks by showing them the results, such as using compost from the site’s own heap to enrich or mulch beds.
Grow some novelty crops, or weird and wonderful flowers to delight your helpers, encouraging samples of your edible produce. Suggest they take photos or collect things that amaze them to share, and discuss their finds.
RHS working with schools
Sign-up to the RHS Campaign for School Gardening and receive a free welcome pack and access a whole host of tools and inspiration to keep your young friends growing.
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