Can a student with behavioral and mental health challenges in a large U.S. city like Philadelphia, learn from a school garden program in Portland, Oregon?
On a daily basis, teachers deal with fighting, property destruction, and just plain bad manners.
Special Education teachers working with students on the autism spectrum disorder, or Tourette syndrome, deal with tantrums, outbursts or being disruptive.
Behavioral Issues on the Rise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that emotional and behavioral disorders affect 10-15 percent of children globally.
In a May 2016 webinar presented by Slow Food USA, a team of educators, described their results working with students in the Creek School Garden, in Portland, Oregon, and their success in reducing their negative behavior.
The Creek School Garden had been in operation for one year.
From defiance to confidence
The students that attended the Multnnomah Education Service District, were identified as students that needed specially designed instruction to meet his/her social, emotional behavior and communication needs. They all were enrolled in a program because they needed extra support and structure. The webinar also discussed common stress triggers, such as poverty and lack of mental and physical safety. Over twenty percent of the students received free or reduced lunches.
Since one student became involved in the program, there was a positive increase in his social behavior. For the entire academic school year, the student also only had one visit to the time-out.
A positive change also occurred in another student diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD. In the classroom, the student was highly impulsive and he displayed anxiety. In the garden, however, he was able to use gardening as a coping skill. The student, once unwilling to discuss his frustrations, learned to reduce his tantrums and regain his composure following highly intense interactions.
One student on the Autism spectrum disorder had problems connecting with peers and maintaining conversations. After spending time in the Creek School Garden, he began displaying more confidence and showed an eagerness to work.
All of the students worked on weeding, planting and monitoring their garden beds. The Creek School Garden team observed a cohesion throughout the student body by the students’ focus on a common goal.
Students learned that physical activity was fun and rewarding. Even the Creek School Garden team looked forward to working in the garden in that the School Garden as it taught positive life and leadership skills.
The lesson learned in Portland is that there is a learned therapeutic value of school gardens.
Working in a garden can help lessen negative behaviors and raise behaviors that are positive. And when students learn positive behaviors, they can better control their behavior with their peers.