pookiejean(z9 TX)July 4, 2007

I have had many suggestions on how to interest small children to the magic of gardening, but... I am the supervisor of a juvenile community garden, which means I have (non-violent) teenagers working off traffic/shoplifting fines by working in our city's garden and growing vegetables to give to a local food bank. I am always looking for creataive ways to involve and interest them in gardening. Most of them have grown up in a concrete world and are clueless about plants, soil, insects, amphibians, birds, composting--you name it. And I am constantly trying to teach and get them interested in becoming the future gardeners and caretakers of our earth.

I am dismayed about the ignorance rampant among these kids about the natural world. They think snakes, spiders, bees, wasps, etc. are extremely dangerous and out to get them, but I tell them that mosquitoes are the worst thing they can encounter in our garden because they carry life-threatening diseases. But most kids are deathly afraid of spiders--even though spiders eat the disease-carrying mosquitoes. No one ever comes close to guessing the mosquito. Most kids don't eat vegetables and don't even know what most of the vegetables taste like or even look like. I have had a kid (6'2"--250 lbs.) run screaming from another kid chasing him with a toad. I am pessimistic about what the future will bring. I think if these teenagers do not change their views, the only wildlife they will have will be rats and cockroaches. And, maybe, deservedly so.

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What about theme gardens of foods they know and like to eat? Like a pizza garden or salsa garden? Most teens like those foods and then they can try growing ingredients to make their own.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 11:28PM
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I think veganmom has a good idea there. Who doesn't like pizza? Are you only growing veggies? If not, maybe give them each a little spot, or container and have them make their own themed garden. I've looked into everything from a Gothic theme to a football team themed garden. I know that idea got some teens I know interested in gardening.

What about bringing in a few interesting plants, like a venus fly trap. You can pick a small pot up at walmart for $5. They're scared of bugs, vft eat bugs. Silly things like that, that fascinate young children, can get a reaction from older ones too. My husband has no interest what so ever in plants or gardening, but I picked up a sensitive plant for my 5yr old son the other day, showed it to my husband, and he sat there and played w/ it for quite a while. (What was really funny, is that I told him to pet the leaves, and he did, when the branch dropped and the leaves closed, he freaked, he said, I didnt touch it that hard, really, i didn't mean to break it! LOL it was funny, guess you had to be there.)

The bug, or nature thing, I don't get personally, I've always been fascinated w/ insects and spiders. I've gotten many people intrigued when I show them mine (children and adults a like) Tarantulas are a great way to introduce spiders. They're big and hairy and scary, but in a cage peoples interests peak, and they want to know more. What they eat, how they live, etc. I also started raising caterpillars recently. One of my husbands employees (mid to late 30's, big body building guy rushes to check on them when he's at the house, then calls his wife to update her on the caterpillars developements.

If you're doing this for the city, I can't imagine you'd be able to spend the money on stuff. Maybe you could find someone in the area that keeps tarantulas or other bugs as pets, and have them do a "show and tell" Interesting plants that do stuff, maybe you can find people here on GW to donate?

I don't know, hopefully, maybe, somewhere in my rambling you can find some idea to help these kids. I wish you the best of luck, and keep us updated!


    Bookmark   July 7, 2007 at 11:41PM
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good luck!

i myself am a teenager, but i love gardening. nature in general, especially birds and all that. :)

but i am deathly afraid of spiders, which is kind of funny to watch, when i'm weeding or something and i see a big spider. i usually drop everything and run. haha.

that's a really great thing you're doing. i know i wish more of my peers appreciated nature.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 10:59PM
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i'm sorry but i'm an adult and i don't like spiders!! yuck!! i know they eat the mosquito's but i know when a wolf spider bites, its hard and ithces for a long time!! i know what a brown recluse can also do. but on the other hand i know the beauty of their work, as in their webs!!! ahhh and the dew on them in the morning as the sun shines on them!! but snakes!! YUCK!! hmmm the snakes take away mice!! and there aint a good thing in the world for mice!!
i'm lucky my kids like to garden. my son has a medievil garden and talla has a fairy garden. and he has been helping me out in the regular garden. but i don't knwo how ya'd do something like that with food!! also he really gets into the different colored of foods that makes it interesting for him!! like purple tomatoes and things like that!! hope any of that helps!!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 7:28PM
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floodthelast(5 N. OH)

I try and point out interesting plants that do cool things to my kids. I would recommend Morning glories for your teens they can't eat them but they grow almost two inches a day and so are more fun to watch. My husband says they must be on steroids. Also you could look into ordering some beneficial bugs, like ladybugs or praying mantis. Ladybugs rarely scare anyone, and praying mantis have the gore factor because of their relationship issues. It would be a nice way of introducing the idea of good bugs. Or even let them pollinate some veggies with a paint brush by hand and explain that the bees do that for us. If they are like the teens I know they will either complain about the work and appreciate bees, or be extra proud of any veg. that grows.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 12:54PM
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I LOVE NATURE! I am a teenager too!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 12:35PM
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You've gotten some really good ideas.

I like the pizza garden idea and the pollinating with a paint brush idea.

Squash, melons and pumpkins are fun to grow (if you have the room, or use a bush variety) and you could explain how bees are important for pollination.

With my nieces and nephews, I've been teaching them the importance of including plants like catmint and lavender in the garden to attract bees. Also nice to show examples of companion planting, like tomatoes, basil and marigolds together.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 2:11PM
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Please don't judge these kids too harshly. My kids are also afraid of bugs but they'll snap out of it because I'm here to help them with these fears. These kids need you and they're lucky (wether they realize it or not) to get this exposure. I love all of the ideas that have been presented here. I have a teen and a tween that I'm trying to do the same with. I'm going to give some of these ideas a try too! Something our culture seems to be forgetting these days... "It takes a village to raise a child".

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 12:42PM
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I am a teenager. Like "pickygardener," I am facinated and awed by the natural world and all sorts of sciences, including life science. I have recently begun gardening using pots, and when I move soon to my new house, I will start an outdoor garden. As a teenager, I can personally tell oyu what interests me. Experiments. My most interesting experiment yet is what I am currently working on. How magnetism affects plant growth. You can also do how magnetized water affects plants. You can do experiments with flowers and food coloring. An interesting one is what veganmom 30 said. Taking what food we teens/ kids are into and showing us how to grow our own ingredients to make our own things like pizza and salsa. All of these experiments can influence minors to enjoy gardening and nature much better. As for the bugs, rodents, reptiles, and other things that creep kids out... I just don't understand. I'm naturaly cautious when their around, but not paranoid. No advice on that part, cause i can't relate to them.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Is there room for each teen to grow one thing themself- full responsibility for it and have a contest at the end or do all the kids enter and leave the program at different times? Usually if you challenge a teen to something they will embrace it and become very intersted. Like who can grow the biggest pumpkin or produce the most squash from 1 plant, etc. You could keep a list with weights of produce each week or something like that.

My oldest 2 boys love bugs. We had a tarantula who had babies, the babies then escaped in my house- hundreds of baby tarantulas. Supposedly they were all found, we have since moved. Anyway, my oldest brought me home a poisonous snake when he was about 7 yrs old. My 3rd son is scared of many bugs and snakes. Raised the same way as the others. He loves planting things though and is interested in bugs, just not up close.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2012 at 12:00AM
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