Gardening creates so many opportunities for inquiring minds, and all children can benefit from working and learning in the garden. While there are many things that need to be considered when planting a garden, one important aspect of your planning should include its accessibility for all learners. How can you ensure your garden is more accessible for all learners?
Here are some simple things to consider when planning your garden in the outdoor classroom:
Analyze where you will be planting your garden and placing equipment. What type of terrain is around your garden?
- Consider the mobility needs of children who utilize wheelchairs, walkers, or crutches
- Space garden beds far enough apart so they can be easily accessed in a wheelchair
- Level ground is the best place to install gardening equipment and makes it safer for maneuverability
- Paths or sidewalks close to the garden make it easy to navigate with assistive equipment. Be sure there is a ramp to access the space where the garden will be planted.
Will children sit, kneel, or stand to garden?
- Consider using a gardening box with built in seating, or a rolling seat. This will give an alternate option to kneeling next to the bed for those who cannot physically kneel or bend to reach the ground
Can you utilize raised beds or vertical gardening?
- Build raised beds, a few inches or a few feet off the ground offers opportunity to participate for children who cannot sit or kneel on the ground
- Vertical gardening offers a versatile range of options. Vertical gardens can easily be placed in more accessible locations, and do not require getting low to the ground to participate. The Adventurous Child offers the Root Garden, which is a great option for vertical gardening, with the benefits of observation doors that can be opened to observe how plants grow underground.
What type of gardening equipment do you have available?
Consider the unique physical needs of the children who will be gardening. What type of gardening tools will allow them to participate?
- Look into gardening tools with extended handles, curved handles, and extra grip. Simple adjustments to the tools available in the garden opens up the accessibility to many more learners.
Sensory sensitivities: Look at the location of your garden. What type of sensory input will children experience in this location?
Make note of noise nearby (proximity to streets, other playground equipment, air conditioner units etc.), temperature, exposure to the sun (shade vs full sun)
Children with sensory sensitivities will react and engage very differently depending on the sensory input around them. The sensory input at your location may not be something you can change or control, but it should be something you take into consideration while planning activities.
Picture prompts/labels: Consider the communication needs of the children who will be working in the garden. If you are assigning tasks or jobs in the garden, consider using picture prompts and picture lists. Create picture or tactile choices for students who may not verbally communicate. The more supports in place, the more independently all children can work and learn!
An accessible garden creates inclusion and a chance for all learners to engage in the benefits of outdoor play. The garden is where children learn to explore science, math, and health, so be sure your garden is open, inviting, and accessible to all children!
Click the link below to check out The Adventurous Child Garden Box with Peep Holes, which has bench seats on the sides that allows children to sit while gardening or observing!
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