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Growing Together: The Children's Gardening Club of Dorchester

By Harley Webley, MPH Candidate, Yale School of Public Health

Intern, Mid Shore Health Improvement Coalition


Last year in Dorchester County, a simple idea started: to teach primary school children about teamwork and accomplishment through gardening. A collaboration between the Dorchester County Garden Club and the local YMCA, the project aimed to provide children with a hands-on learning opportunity to garden, foster their understanding of the environment, and promote teamwork.

It Started in April With a Lasagna Plot

The first project was a lasagna gardening plot, which resembled a layered sandwich with soil, leaves, and compost. As the children planted seedlings, they gained confidence as they watched the seeds grow into plants. The learning process began with simple tasks such as preparing soil and properly watering plants using a rain gauge. As the children deepened their understanding of gardening, they progressed to more advanced activities, including the preparation of composting bins with soil. They problem-solved and explored the flexibility of adjusting seedlings to refine their planting plan over time.

"Explorer Books"

Garden journaling has been shown to instill self-discipline in children, by fostering the skills of scientific observation and regularly the habit of regularly recording data. Every young gardener crafted a unique "Explorer Book" to document growing information. Within these books, they measured the length of their vegetables and the height of their fellow youth gardeners. The books also served as a record for various afternoon activities, including flower pressing, bird feeding, and painting.

First a Harvest, Then a Feast

Research shows that gardening can enhance children's food preferences, lead to an increase in liking vegetables, and boost their nutrition knowledge. When it came time to harvest, the children gathered tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, basil, coriander, curly and flat parsley, and zinnias. In one session, the gardeners made homemade bruschetta with freshly chopped garden tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and a Parmesan cheese mixture. To bring it all home, they brought the harvested produce to share with their families.

Looking Ahead to the Future

Before the gardening experience, many children had never held a shovel or dug into the dirt. Despite operating on a limited budget, the program successfully delivered a meaningful outdoor experience for children with restricted exposure to the natural environment, expanding the joys of learning beyond the typical classroom setting. Looking ahead, the program aspires to secure funding to extend its reach, serving more children and contributing larger harvests to support their families. They hope their project also inspires others to begin gardening with children.


To learn about modeling this program in your organization, please contact:

Mary Ann Moore at


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