There is a magical quality around seeds and how they transform and grow. Standing under a mighty oak tree you can’t help but wonder at the small size and intricate shape of the acorn that started it all. Seeds themselves are all colors, shapes, and sizes - miniscule shiny black petunia seeds, roundish pock marked beet seeds, and the bright red bean like seeds of the Magnolia grandiflora. And of course, who can resist the ephemeral quality of the Dandelion seeds and the memory of wishes blown by countless children, teens, and even adults over the years.
Learning about seeds provides an introduction to the world of plants and nature. There are many juvenile picture books to choose from that will help provide inspiration for a nature learning experience. Paired literary and informational texts from the Nature Book List is a great starting place for such resources. Stories will introduce the awe and wonder, and then basic seeding or other hands on activities can enhance the engagement and create connections for children to the natural world. While seeding experiments can be messy, giving children the sensory experience of the smell and feel of soil and building the observation skills by monitoring seed sprouting to plant growth is a valuable learning tool and accessible in a variety of settings.
If you Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson and From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons and In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby and Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman are two recommended pairings for an excellent introduction to the wonders of seeds. These books are part of the cadre of environmentally based children’s literature that serve to expose, highlight, and reinforce the wonders and complexities of our natural world. Promoting this interest in children is critical for the future of environmental knowledge and care of the planet, and benefits extend to the individual child as well. “A consistent contention emerging from the studies was that nature offers opportunities and experiences for engagement that contribute to children's well-being in myriad ways, such as improving physical, psychological, social, and emotional development.” (Adams & Savahl 2017)
Concerns have been raised about the loss of a child’s connection to nature, and the term “extinction of experience” has been used (Soga, 2016). A survey study of schoolchildren ‘demonstrate(d) that children who frequently experience nature are likely to develop greater emotional affinity to and support for protecting biodiversity. We suggest that children should be encouraged to experience nature and be provided with various types of these experiences.”(Soga, 2016)
“Report after report – from independent observers as well as participants themselves – indicate shifts in perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and resilience. Similarly, over fifty studies point to nature playing a key role in the development of pro-environmental behavior, particularly by fostering an emotional connection to nature. (Kuo, 2019)
Education nature programming, school gardens, or field trips to gardens are useful and fun adventures to connect children to the magical world of seeds and growing plants. Even more though is a direct connection to the garden, whether a personal or community garden, or containers on a balcony or patio with vegetables and herbs. This programming model can also be applied in a public library setting, and partnership opportunities exist with local farms, schools, and other community organizations.
The process of watching and participating in sowing seeds, tracking plant growth, and perhaps ultimately harvesting fruit and vegetables can leave important impressions on a child’s mind. Discovering the new seeds within the harvested fruit and beginning the cycle again roots the child in the natural world and nurtures the hope of sustainability. Seeds hold hope and promise; they are the beginning.
By Anne-Marie Parrish
Librarian to be
Adams, S., Savahl, S., & Casas, F. (2016). The relationship between children's perceptions of the natural environment and their subjective well-being. Children's Geographies, 14(6), 641-655. doi:10.1080/14733285.2016.1157571
Kuo, M., Barnes, M., & Jordan, C. (2019). Do experiences with nature promote learning? converging evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 305-305. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00305
Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., Yamaura, Y., Kurisu, K., & Hanaki, K. (2016). Both direct and vicarious experiences of nature affect children’s willingness to conserve biodiversity. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(6), 529. doi:10.3390/ijerph13060529
Dr. Arnone is a proponent of libraries helping to serve their communities with programming about their local environments. She has taught "Environmental Programming with Libraries" and "Literacy, Inquiry and Nature for Libraries" at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies. She is a certified environmental educator in the state of North Carolina.