As plants become more popular, and are rapidly being introduced to indoor living and work spaces, we are quickly learning about all of the positive effects that plants have on our well being and environment. For example, we know that plants in a work space help reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve air quality! Have you ever taken a minute to think about what bringing plants into a classroom environment could do for children and their learning?
Here to join us in this conversation, and give us a better idea on what bringing plants into a classroom can look like, we have Carla Ward, from Early Learning Foundations.
Hi Carla, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join me on this blog. I am very interested to hear about your experience with plants in the classroom!
Can you start off by telling everyone a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Hi Maria. Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog! I am an Early Childhood and Wunder-Led educator. I am also the owner of Early Learning Foundations, a business dedicated to education and enhancing the work of Early Childhood Educators. I’ve held a variety of roles in the education field for more than 17 years. From teaching to tutoring to hosting The Everything ECE Podcast, I love to share actionable and inspiring ideas with others both in and out of the classroom to help support children’s development.
How did you start incorporating plants into the classroom environment?
I started slowly. I wanted the plants to be part of the classroom program, not just something I had to remember to water once in a while. I introduced the plants as a play invitation. I put a bucket of soil and child-sized garden spades along with child-sized gardening gloves out on a table. I then gave the children the opportunity to explore the plants, discover how they feel. We talked about how plants breathe, what plants need and how to treat them with love and kindness because they are living things. The children really took it to heart and treated the plants with the utmost respect.
As the plants were potted I put them around the classroom at children’s height levels so that they could engage with them. I did learn to keep the watering can up high though, because my students had a tendency to water the plant multiple times….a day.
I totally get that. I think we all have been there. You just love your new plant so much that you want to tend to it every time you walk past!
Given your previous answer, I can already guess the answer to this next question: Did you find the children to be interested in the plants, and learning about their growth?
I found the children grew a great respect for the plants and also some intrigue. With spider plants as they grow, they have little baby sprouts on the end of the stems. The children loved to look for the little buds. Then snip and propagate them. They would look for the sprouts when we soaked them in water. They brought wonder to something that so many of us take for granted. Teaching children to respect plants is a gift to them and long term- to our planet.
I love that! Spider plants are very rewarding in that aspect, they are quick to produce babies and then so easy and fun to propagate. Perfect for younger ones who want to see those roots coming in quick! That being said, I can imagine how quickly your classroom must have filled up with plants...
How did the children react to being surrounded by so many plants?
There were plants all over the classroom and one of the things that the children found fascinating was that plants breathe carbon dioxide. To them, that meant that if we talk to the plant then we are helping them grow. Plants became wonderful friends with the children in the classroom. Some of them would talk to the plants and ask them how they are.
Yes! I love how this shows just how literal children are. If I talk to the plants, I am releasing carbon dioxide, therefore helping them breathe and grow!
Do you find plant care has any effect on children’s behaviour throughout the day?
Giving children the opportunity to know that they are trusted by the plants, allowed them to have respect for the plants and nature. They also learned responsibility for taking care of plants. Not just remembering to water them but what happens when you overwater them.
The children became environmental citizens. When we show children that we trust them, they will always surprise us. They will develop a sense of belonging and develop who they truly and authentically are.
Amazing, and seeing that having this responsibility for the plants helps children develop their character and a sense of belonging, have you notice any changes in the overall classroom environment after bringing the plants in?
Oh gosh, where to start. There was a subtle but present shift in the classroom environment. For one, plants have the known ability to improve air quality. I am particularly in love with spider plants. They are non-toxic and air purifiers. Of course, if an educator or parent is reading this, non-toxic does not mean, we want children to put the plants in their mouths. The plants improved the air in the room. Can I prove it? Probably not. But what I do know is that the volume and feel of the overall room shifted. In addition, the colour green is associated with peace, rest and security. Green helps people feel rested and secure. Isn’t that a gift we should all be so lucky to feel?
Absolutely, plants are such a wonderful gateway to calming our minds and souls! Everybody should be exposed to their wonderful benifits.