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Dirt and the Brain

The October/November 2010 issue of Organic Gardening has an interesting article in it on page 62. In a piece called “Garden Smarts” it discusses the theory that gardening may increase learning ability, specifically in children.

In the dirt there is a soil organism that is called Mycobacterium vaccae, say that ten times fast. This soil bacterium is believed to decrease anxiety and increase serotonin. It is known that there is a direct relationship between serotonin and learning. If an individual is under stress they do not learn as well. Researchers from Sage College found that mice exposed to M. vaccae performed twice as fast with much less anxiety when forced to navigate a maze and remember information over time. The article is trying to convey not only that gardening is good for you in regards to your diet and physical health but it plays a role in your mental health as well.

Of course this is not necessarily news for anyone who has spent any significant time in their garden patch but it does help to reinforce the benefits that we already know exist, especially in regards to children. Gardening provides countless hours of time well spent between children and adults. On a personal level it teaches them about short and long term planning and obtaining their goals. As we all know gardening is rarely 100% successful and that is an important trait to teach children as well, how to deal with failure, more specifically how to learn from failure and turn it into an eventual success. Most importantly is fills them with a sense of accomplishment.

There is also the philosophical side of things as well. Through gardening children are able to witness the cycle of life. From the seed initially being placed into the ground and the eventual decay of the mature plant from that seed they are able to better make sense of the passing of time and the rise and fall of those they love. They also learn their role within nature and are able to see firsthand the effect their decisions in the garden have on the local plant and animal life. A side benefit from all of this is that they enjoy eating healthy foods and spend their day exercising.

It is difficult to understand with all of the mentioned benefits why every school does not have its own gardening club. A place where children can allow the stress associated with their daily routine to slowly fade into the gardens soil. To take it a step further they could then serve the food they have grown during school lunch, seems like such a simple idea doesn’t it?

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here


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