COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gardening is a great option for keeping your children off social media and in the outdoors. And it can teach as well as entertain.

“When children grow their food in a garden, they are much more invested in their food sources. I have seen the excitement that children experience in a garden lead to one-on-one opportunities for them to connect on a personal level with the adult leaders in the garden,” said Sue Hogan, 4-H educator for Ohio State University Extension in Franklin County.

Gardening can be used to teach science, math, literature, social studies and many other subjects. Using school gardens as a context for learning has been well-researched and includes benefits like higher scores on science achievement tests, increased health and wellness, positive feelings toward education, increased cooperation with others, and more, Hogan said.

Garden education works well as a curriculum tool, but on a personal level it works wonders, Hogan said.

“Gardening is nature on a personal level. If children grow zucchini, then when it is finally served to them as a meal they can remember the hole they dug to put the starter plant or seed in, the insects they discovered on its leaves, the hours they spend watering, the first burst of growth, and more,” said Hogan.

This fall, educators involved in school, afterschool or health programs and who are interested in gardening for youth can attend any of three different gardening programs that will take place in Franklin County, offered by OSU Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

4-H Project Green Teacher

This program is designed for educators planning to involve youth in gardening, such as in an afterschool program. A series of sessions over the course of 10 weeks will address best practices in gardening education and ways to educate, engage and mentor others. Participants will earn their 4-H Project Green Teacher certification at the end of the program.

The course runs for two hours on Wednesday nights from Sept. 8 to Nov. 29 and costs $150 for the 10 sessions.

Gardening educators and OSU Extension experts will present sessions focused on garden nutrition, pollination, integrated pest management, site selection, sustainability and more.

The program, which includes registration to two optional events, will increase your knowledge of gardening and teaching gardening, introduce you to resource personnel, offer networking opportunities, and increase your confidence as a garden educator.

For additional information and to register, go to go.osu.edu/pgt2017.

2017 Youth/School Garden Bus Tour

The garden bus tour, which is for educators and others, will travel to five different locations in the Columbus area that have youth gardens, school gardens or both.

The bus will leave on Sept. 8 at 7 a.m. from the front of the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, on the university’s Columbus campus. The tour costs $75 and includes lunch.

Included in the tour will be a visit to Granville High School, the Columbus Jewish Day School, Franklin Park Conservatory, Howlett Hall rooftop garden at Ohio State and Highland Youth Garden.

Participants will have the opportunity to see a large-scale school garden operation complete with raised beds, low tunnels, and an aquaponics system where fish and plants are grown together in the same system, as well as a smaller-scale youth garden, rooftop garden and urban community garden that serves several nearby schools.

For additional information and to register, go to go.osu.edu/sgbustrip.

2017 School Garden Conference

The fifth annual School Garden Conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 13 at Ohio State’s Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive in Columbus.

The conference will feature garden-based nutrition education, afterschool gardening, hands-on activities and more. The cost of the event is $60 and includes lunch.

For additional information and to register, go to go.osu.edu/sgc2017.