Learning New Skills and Rehabilitating Old Skills

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In my previous post, I gave a definition of “Horticultural Therapy”, according to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, it is defined as, “Horticultural therapy techniques are employed to assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy settings, people learn to work independently, problem solve, and follow directions.” Gardening has many benefits other than just fresh, wholesome, and delicious produce, it is so much more.

I want to take some time to discuss further, each of the benefits that are spelled out in the definition.

Let’s start with, “assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost.”

Learning is a lifetime achievement that never really ends. I like to say that, “A day not learning is a day not living.” Skills and abilities that we take for granted were actually developed very slowly over the span of our lives. We learned by watching our parents and family members, and then by mimicking them, then by assisting them, and eventually we were doing it all by ourselves, maybe not to a level of mastery, but we were doing it. Now this process was a dynamic and radial process, we learned many things in this way, all at different paces and starting at different times. The human brain is a miraculous thing.

Every day we are exposed to opportunities to learn and grow and, like a veggie in the garden we have two options, “grow or die.” Gardening is a wonderful opportunity to learn new skills and abilities. Mel Bartholomew, developer of Square Foot Gardening, knew the connection between gardening and learning. When working with children Mel, through his developed curriculum would teach the children the applications that gardening has with learning.

These applications were obviously biology and botany, but even more, Mel knew that gardening was an opportunity to teach children about the sciences, social and historical aspects of science, how systems work together, mathematical measurements and calculations, and even effective communication. These skills are vital for children to learn, if they are to be successful but also, they are good for us adults to have too. Gardening can and will teach us new skills in some of the most delicious ways.

Our skills and talents that we developed over the years are something we don’t put a lot of thought into or effort in appreciating but, ask someone who once was able to perform a task and now is no longer able to, just what a loss it is to them not to be able to enjoy. People are subjected to many situations that can cause a step back in our learning or ability. A sickness, an injury, or even emotional crisis. When we no longer can do or enjoy something that we once did, this can leave us struggling with even more than the underlying issue that brought us to this point to start with. Injuries and illnesses are depressing enough and then to add loss of enjoyment of activities multiplies that effect.

I have had the opportunity to work with many different types of people in many different situations, children with depression, ADHD, lack of self-confidence, emotional injuries and have been able to provide them with an escape and a place to focus their efforts in constructive activities of gardening. Adults with physical and emotional issues such as depression, loss of physical mobility, even addiction can benefit from gardening activities. Seniors are a special group as they seem to have the fondest memories of gardening and now that they are living in assisted living or long term care facilities, where the daily activities of gardening can bring them so much joy and happiness.

This whole gardening as therapy is much larger than can be dissected in a simple blog but having the understanding that gardening can and will provide benefits to others is huge too. Remember, that when we are gardening, we are exercising our bodies, minds, and spirit. We are bringing about learning and recollection, and we are growing, not only ourselves but our gardens and the wonderful bounty that it provides us.

For more information on Horticultural Therapy visit the American Horticultural Therapy Association at: www.ahta.org

For more information on products that help you and those with mobility issues garden, check out my products page at, www.SFGRRV.com/products and remember that proceeds from these products benefit our brave and loyal veterans through the Semper Fi Fund, www.semperfifund.org  and is done so through the Square Foot Gardening Foundation, www.squarefootgardening.org

“Keep Those Fingers Dirty!”

Brian L. Fuderis a certified Square-Foot Gardening Instructor who builds gardens that are wheelchair-accessible and mobility-issue friendly. His business, Square Foot Gardening for the Red River Valley, is an approved vendor of products for the Square Foot Gardening Foundation. Follow Brian’s activities on Facebookand atSemper Fi Fund. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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