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  • Writer's pictureLyndsay Boysen

Make Our Garden Grow

My recent attempt at starting seedlings for my vegetable garden ended the way it always does…minimal success, lots of failure. I love to garden, have too many houseplants (is that a thing?), lots of flower gardens, and find immense joy in growing and harvesting my own food. It doesn’t, however, come without frustration. Inevitably the weak, leggy seedlings get tossed in the compost pile and I pick up established plants (nurtured by an expert) at a nursery. Gardening is not everyone’s cup of tea, but my failed seedlings, and the hard work and persistent effort that it takes to keep them alive, makes me think about our bodies. Our bodies are incredibly resilient, but like a seedling/plant, if we don't take care of them, they simply won’t flourish.

Elementary teachers are often tasked with teaching the life cycle of plants. My kids have brought home countless bean plants (that I have subsequently killed). This is usually from a lack of water or too much water, not enough sun or too much sun, and if you get as far as transplanting in the ground, you then have to deal with poor soil quality, bugs/disease, etc. As gardeners, we are constant problem solvers; we might even call ourselves plant doctors. We diagnose the health of each plant, add nutrient rich compost, water consistently and keep a watchful eye on anything that might impede their growth. All the while, we pull away the weeds and encourage a community of wonderful pollinators to help these plants produce and provide.

So what does this have to do with health? Well, I have certainly met some gardening enthusiasts that treat their plants with more care than they treat themselves. But I like to think we can use this elementary science project as a lesson to prioritize some simple health habits that will ensure a vibrant and happy life. You can even use this comparison to help teach your students how important it is to nurture themselves.

5 Gardening Tips for Our Bodies

  1. Consistent Water: Hydration is key to keeping our bodies working at an optimal level. The most effective source of hydration is water and, if you are sweating hard, throwing some electrolytes in won't hurt either. Remember, we wouldn't pour juice, soda, coffee or energy drinks on our plants, so let's remember to water our bodies kindly!

  2. Sunlight: I can't say enough about Vitamin D and the power of safe sun exposure. I have a small beef with my insurance company about not covering Vitamin D screenings, especially since it is reported that about 50% of the country is deficient. Studies suggest that Vitamin D may be the solution to many health and wellness issues. Sunlight not only energizes our plants, but Vitamin D carries a whole host of human health benefits. It can boost our mood and lower depression, help prevent certain cancers and bone loss, reduce the risk for heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes and more! Best of all, it can improve our immune systems, which is a huge plus when we reenter our often germy classrooms this fall.

  3. Compost/Natural Fertilizer: I sense a school lunch menu series in the future, but in the meantime, we need to support our bodies daily with nutrient dense, vitamin and mineral rich, natural whole foods. Food is fuel and what you ingest directly impacts how well your body can take care of itself. Everyone has their own unique relationship with food, but at the end of the day, even making tiny shifts in adding some more fruits, vegetables, clean proteins and whole grains will start to crowd out the food that might not be helping your body.

  4. Pull the Weeds: Our bodies are exposed to more and more toxins everyday. Gardens fail when choked by weeds, infested by bugs, or exposed to molds and mildews. The same goes for our bodies. This is a larger topic for another day, but start to take a look at what chemicals and pollutants you are either putting on your body, breathing in, or ingesting. This can be a pretty daunting task, but making one small swap the next time you run out of shampoo or laundry detergent can make a huge difference to the load of toxins your body is trying desperately to process.

  5. Encourage Pollinators: Social relationships and a strong community of family, friends and work colleagues drives happier, healthier teachers. How we use our community time is also worth considering. I am a guilty contributor of the lunch room negative gossip or the frustrated vent session, but remember to share a healthy dose of gratitude, student or teacher success, or exciting new ideas. It is so easy in our profession to only talk about what is going wrong when what we really need to do is share what is going right!

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