Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Garden as a Teaching Tool

How Important?
      'Kindergarten' comes from the German meaning 'garden of children' and, of course, refers to the first organised schooling our kids are exposed to. That 'garden' should have been used by the educator Friedrich Frobel, the bloke who came up with the name, is most fitting, This is  because a garden can be the most useful learning tool we have. Fred was using it in the context of treating children like plants, giving them the right growing conditions to develop into healthy fruiting specimens. However we can also look at it in an equally creative sense: the garden has the potential to yield some of the most important guides to understanding our world.

      Ask anyone what the most important equation in science is and you'll get Einstein's theory of relativity, Newton's Laws of motion and various others pulled out of the bag. Personally, I'd go for photosynthesis: 'where does the wood for the table start out, kiddies?' That's right - a tree. And how does the tree grow there? By the process of photosynthesis. That plastic chair. The plastic comes as a by-product of coal tar and where does coal come from? whoops, we're back to trees. And lunch - obvious where the vegetables came from isn't it? but what about the meat? No, the cow didn't photosythesise, but guess what it ate to become big.

      Take a deep breath. Now think about where the oxygen we need to stay alive comes from. Yep, right again, it's the waste product of the plant factory where photosynthesis takes place. And hey, look at that cloud in the sky. The plants needed water to carry out photosynthesis but they took in too much and pumped it out as vapour (a big oak can move 150gallons a day) which became  clouds that will eventually give us rain.

      Now look at that insect. It's a greenfly and a clever man called Stephan Buczacki worked out that, because they breed so fast, one landing on your roses in early June could give rise to two thousand billion by the end of August. This means that we could be over our heads in greenfly (imagine drowning in them), but it never happens. The reason it doesn't is that bluetits, wasps, hoverflies and many other species save us by having greenfly for dinner. And this leads us to discover that all of nature is a web of life - even despised animals like slugs are beavering away eating dead plants and returning the bits back into the ground so that other things can grow.The important lesson in this is that, the more you look at each living thing, you see that it plays a part in making planet Earth work, we are a small part of this and should do our best to fit in: break too many strands of the web and it falls apart.

      Ok. So, back into the stuffy schoolroom, kids. But don't forget what's outside the window.

Honey bee playing its part