What could be the prized possession of a child? A toy? A dress? Surely, not chocolate. What could it be? Something that encapsulates childhood innocence, skills and competencies, academics, spending quality time with parents, preparing the child for the world that s/he is going to inherit. What could that be? My take – Plants.
I am not referring to growing own food, exotic species or new-age technology like hydroponics for space and cost is a privilege in India. I am not talking about gardening or even trees. It is just about a simple plant, any plant in any pot with any seed present in any kitchen. It has to be that simple and easy for every child to experience first-hand, nature and environment, and learn to be a part of it.
As I see my twin daughters tending to their plants, I wonder about the aspects in which this activity has impacted their exposure, learning and growing up.
Skills And Competencies
Patience – Plants will not yield to instant gratification requests. Return on efforts will take time.
Failure – Every seed sowed will not germinate. All the efforts might lead to a big nothing.
Discipline – Day-in and day-out the plant needs to be taken care of and watered at a given time.
Ownership – I have sown. I tend to. I grow the plant. That is mine.
Curiosity – How does the plant grow from a seed? The different parts and their functions.
Hands-On – Learn with practice and by doing, and not just by hearing instructions.
Sweating – Opportunities to sweat for a child is few and far in between. Sweating is good.
Getting Dirty – It is not the sanitized and clean environment that boosts immunity, but this.
Cause & Effect – As you sow, so shall you reap. Your efforts, your learning, your returns.
All The Senses – The experiential learning that involves all the five senses, unlike classroom.
I can go on, but that is not the purpose. The skills and competencies that a child learns while tending to plants in beyond an adult’s imagination. And, all this learning is something that a child is not going to forget in a hurry. Rather, it is going to stay with her/him for a lifetime.
Learning skills and competencies through tending to plants is a non-tangible. It is not conducive to assessment and examinations that an adult and a schooling system are used to. No issues, at all. The learning from plants is amenable to textbook academics too. Just that, it requires a bit of application.
It is Maths time. Numbering, Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Shapes, Weights, Comparison, Time.
It is Language time. Speak and ask open-ended questions. Read and Write about plants and actions.
It is Environment time. Plants themselves are a living environment, a world in a microcosm.
It is Cognitive Development time. Discuss and analyze experiences and predict outcomes.
A humble plant can teach all the academics that a mighty classroom can, that too at a fraction of a cost, time and efforts.
There are just three actors in this entire story – the child, the plant and the adult, a supporting cast. No distractions, just actions and observations. There is nothing but daylight that separates what the child and adult are doing involving all their five senses with the plant.
The togetherness, the bond, the memories that tending to a plant creates has no parallel. There will no repetition and no monotony in all the time spent together. There will be unexpected twists and turns along the way and the child’s reactions to each will lead to stories to savour.
It is not just the plants that get discussed and spoken about, but also the children – how they think, evolve, grow and develop. It is about growing up together, including the adults.
Any Plant Will Do
Even if there are no pots around, just a plate or a broken bucket/vessel will suffice to grow a plant. Coriander and fenugreek from the spices box in the kitchen, peels and leftovers from the cut vegetables, seeds from a fruit that a child ate – anything and everything can be tried out for growing. Seasons do not matter. The place available does not matter.
A requirement is just a willing adult, a handful of soil and a child will surely follow the suit.
A Better Tomorrow
Plants give a chance to children to learn innumerable life skills, overlooked in standard school curriculums, and teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.
It is said that we have to leave a better world for future generations. Tending to plants with children is a small cog in the bigger wheel of creating an environmentally sustainable ecosystem.
There is no better gift than handing down a love of nature for children, starting with a base unit – Plants.
This is how I arrived at what the most revered and sacred possession of a child should be – A Plant. Also, a lifetime of learning.
What would be your take on this subject?