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Gardening projects connect kids and adults

Children enjoy getting outdoors and planting bulbs and seeds.

By Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center / October 7, 2008

Photos courtesy of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.

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It’s possible that never before in history have so many been distracted by so much. From the hundreds of channels on cable and satellite TV to the profusion of iPods, Blackberries, mobile phones, and video games, to the black hole of bits and bytes that is the Internet, the information age has something to attract anyone’s attention.

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Some experts say this is a good thing. Video games, they argue, are making our kids smarter and quicker thinkers. Others insist that our preoccupation with electronic data sources comes at a cost, including youngsters who can't identify a robin in their own backyard or explain that frogs start out as tadpoles.

These critics say that we’ve lost touch with the natural world and that many of our kids, who spend their days surfing the net, rather than combing through the woods, suffer from “nature deficit disorder,” a term coined by author Richard Louv in the book “Last Child in the Woods."

Nature projects and learning
The staff at the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center (NFBIC), in Danby, Vt., were inspired by “Last Child in the Woods” and now sponsor a website for educators called the Bulb Project.

The interactive website gives educators, youth group leaders, and home schoolers a forum for the exchange of ideas and a growing library of learning activities that use flower bulbs to connect young people and nature.

“My own boys were city kids before we moved from Brooklyn to Vermont two years ago,” says master gardener Sally Ferguson, NFBIC director. “This summer they ventured out into the garden to help me build rock walls. The garter snakes were more nature than they bargained for!

"But they loved the work of designing and building the walls," she adds. "It was their project, complete with problem-solving and decisionmaking. They got in touch with nature in a very personal way, and created something we’re all proud of.”

For family projects, she suggests that parents start with a family meeting where everyone in the family has a say about what their planting or building project should be. Walk around the yard, garden, patio, or entry and discuss what might look nice where.

Garden catalogs (both paper and online) are great resources, offering pictures of what trees, flowers, and bushes will eventually look like. Include the idea of some kid-friendly area such as a bean-climbing tee pee, a real teepee, or even a treehouse.

If there are grandparents nearby, invite them to join in the projects. Kids and grandparents will not only enjoy spending time together, the kids will be likely to become that much more involved as they show off for grandma or granddad.