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Speaking topics include:
Gardening is a wonderful activity for children. It provides an opportunity to experiment, express ideas, problem-solve, explore and discover. It can also be easily adapted to children’s individual skills and experience, and grow in complexity as they themselves grow.
Gardening engages children’s natural curiosities, in how plants are grown, in what insects are beneficial or not and the fragility of the environment and what it takes to grow the food we commonly purchase. Through gardening, children begin to appreciate the beauty of nature and change of seasons. And although gardening is a fascinating site for scientific exploration and observation, it is also an expression of creativity. The seemingly endless array of textures, colours and shapes in the garden provide a wonderful palate for the expression or interpretation of ideas. Those expressions provide an outlet for emotions and remedy to worry. We know when children spend time in greenspaces they enjoy lower levels of anxiety and worry and feel an increased sense of belonging, inclusion and connection to the world around them.
This presentation unlocks the potential of involving children in gardening by understanding the dynamic contribution of the child as both learner and teacher in developing and adapting through their relationships with others.
There is growing policy and research interest in children’s wellbeing and the impacts of school gardening programs on children’s health and nutrition, understanding of sustainability, and development of horticultural skills. Evaluations of school gardening programs have demonstrated a clear link between children’s health and school gardening programs.
Most benefits are described in terms of health, fostering healthy eating and, but also in terms of the impact of gardening programs in developing relationships with local communities and strengthening school communities. Evidence also shows academic scores improved when offered alternative outdoor learning environments. Improvements in children’s wellbeing as a result of access to green schoolyards found that natural areas enable students to escape stress, build supportive social networks and increase confidence.
However, research remains limited in terms of understanding how children’s active participation in all aspects of the greenspace (from inception and design, to experience and evaluation) impacts upon children’s wellbeing. This presentation will explore the impact of meaningful participation in greenspaces on student wellbeing, taking a child-focused methodological approach.
Too often therapeutic gardening programming for people with disability is a one-off activity-based intervention. Although this approach provides people with disability a “nice” outing or activity to participate in, it rarely helps them build meaning into their lives, promotes skill development, broader social inclusion or a sense of belonging.
Using an analysis framework which critiques the individual, social and societal impact of therapeutic gardening programs for people with disability, this presentation takes the audience on a critical reflection of existing TH programs or opportunities for people with disability and offers best-practice examples that ensures not only individual satisfaction and enjoyment for participants, builds social inclusion for the individual in the local community and advocates or advances the status of people with disability in society more generally.
The benefits of gardening for individuals is well-known, as are the environmental and social benefits of community greenspaces in community contexts. We can source many incredible initiatives and programs where the benefits of gardening for individuals (and communities) have been realised and documented. This presentation aims to introduce a sociological theoretical lens for better understanding why these benefits occur and how they may be experienced. It will introduce two theories (social geography and recognition theory) and their relevance to therapeutic horticulture. By way of brief introduction, social geography is a way of understanding how sites and spaces such as community gardens become imbued with meaning through interactions with the space and people encountered there. Recognition theory allows us to understand how those interactions help foster a sense of care, respect and esteem between individuals, resulting in a positive impact on one’s sense of identity and the realisation of their positive contribution to the garden, and broader community.
By providing a theoretical lens for understanding and evaluating experiences within community greenspaces, we as a collective of scholars, practitioners and gardeners can more rigorously understand and compare therapeutic horticultural activities and their impacts on the people they serve to benefit. However, we must also acknowledge the potential of many theoretical lenses, which together will enable us to understand the rich and varied experiences and benefits enjoyed by many spending time in the garden.
By developing a theory for therapeutic horticulture and the ways this can inform our data collection of experiences, we strengthen the evidence and reporting of our work and begin to develop a collective voice and language to articulate the importance of our programs. This in turn provides rigour to our reporting mechanisms and helps ensure further funding for initiatives that make a real impact in people’s lives.
Collaboration can take many forms and therapeutic horticulture is proving fertile ground for researchers, practitioners and participants to reap the benefits of a collaborative approach. This presentation highlights such opportunities, through its examination of “Naturing Education”, a schools based therapeutic horticulture program for senior high school students.
Taking an interdisciplinary approach to understanding student wellbeing, the project draws on existing knowledge of student wellbeing through greenspaces AND recent research examining active student participation as an indicator of wellbeing in schools. Participatory in nature, the project embeds the researcher within the program and develops the skills of the educator as a researcher, building capacity for both. All is underpinned by a strong relationship between the school as the site of the initiative, a registered horticulturist bringing professional expertise into a formal education context and the researcher ensuring sound theoretical and methodological underpinning for the project. Most importantly, this project privileges the lived experiences of student’s themselves and acknowledges the success of the program fundamentally lies in their willingness to participate. The result is a better understanding of therapeutic horticulture for students, increased capacity to evaluate and refine therapeutic programs into the future and proof of the benefits of a collaborative approach.