Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Greening Your Kids This Summer
Most kids are out for school for summer and the ‘No More Pencils’ glee that was in full force is probably subsiding. Maybe it’s too soon for the “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do” phase, but wouldn’t it be fun if you had some ideas in your back pocket?
There’s lots of stuff you can do with your kids in the garden while imparting some simple environmental lessons. Here are my top three for grade-school kids:
ONE: Plant something edible. It can be as simple as a leafy herb in a flower pot (quick harvest), a tomato plant in a big tub (takes a few months to bear fruit), or starting some pumpkins for Halloween (talk about patience!).
The key thing is to plan to succeed. So keep it simple and get a little education before your adventure. Visit the children's librarian or a local nursery. And make sure you are vigilant about caring for your new addition.
Payoff: Kids see the connection between plants and harvest, and the value of planning. Lessons abound about protecting ag land, shopping locally at the farmers' market for food that actually tastes like something, and the responsibility of caring for a living thing.
TWO: Plant a tree. Although mid-fall is the ideal time (warm soil and cooling evening temps) many subtropical varieties get off to a great start in these warm days. Have your youngin’ help with some of the decision-making for the right tree. Are you trying to shade an area, screen a view, bring birds to your garden?
Payoff: Use this as an opportunity to talk about passive solar heating – a tree that loses its leaves in the winter allows the sun to warm the house and patio, but creates cooling shade in the summer. Trees also capture and hold carbon in their tissue, so discuss climate change and how little actions can pay big dividends.
THREE: Visit a botanic garden, arboretum or park with diverse plantings. Here in Santa Barbara, that would be our local Bot Garden up Mission Canyon, Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden or a water agency demonstration garden. You and your little one can talk about colors, textures, aromas, shapes, the habitat value of plants for wildlife, and safety.
Payoff: Botanic gardens often have self-guided curriculum you can carry along. Their book stores are loaded with great reading material on natural history and the environment. Some even have camps and classes you can sign up for. Studies show that kids who develop an appreciation for nature early in life become better stewards of the environment.
So, when you hear “there’s nothing to do” you can pull out this little list, get your hands dirty and make some memories. Just do it!