Evidence shows that experiences of nature can bring significant benefits to young people, contributing to their mental, behavioural, creative and imaginative and social well-being (The University of York, Taylor et al, 2001).
Gardens provide restorative environments and environmental psychology shows that the natural environment promotes recovery and helps restore the ability to focus attention. Research also shows children with symptoms of deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate following contact with nature.
"It was an unloved patch of land," said Gavin. "It had been truly neglected; you couldn’t even see the path."
To some, clearing an area like this would have been a daunting challenge – not for Gavin, who honed his gardening skills with us.
He knew what he wanted to do and worked hard at it, establishing vegetable beds where he now grows runner beans, potatoes, beetroot, corn on the cob, carrots and onions. He has also created beautiful flower boarders full of dahlias, Chrysanthemums, verbascum and violas.
Young people come to us for different reasons. For some with behavioural issues it offers a break from their classroom routine where they have the chance to learn horticulture skills and can study towards various levels of City & Guilds Skills for Working Life in Horticulture which is a nationally recognised qualification.
We also work with young people who have profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and here we try to stimulate the senses and engage them with simple garden activities. Here an element of play is included – whether it is hurling leaves in the air, spraying each other with water, or walking in long grass with bare feet and doing roly-poly down a hill. Play, after all, is the basis for all learning.
Teachers and parents of these young people often struggle to find ways of keeping them positive, motivated and learning. At Thrive they benefit from one to one support and tasks include sowing seeds, growing and harvesting vegetables and herbs, and learning how to use tools safely. The activities at Thrive help them to:
- gain confidence and self esteem
- work in a team of people their own age and make new friends
- work and communicate more easily with adults
- develop greater independence and maturity
- feel they are achieving and gaining confidence
- learn a new hobby and have options for further study and the possibility of a rewarding career
"We didn’t even consider gardening as a learning tool, and are absolutely amazed by the success and outcomes," (teacher)
For more information on our programmes for young people, email us or call 0118 988 4844.