Dirt Therapy

Sam with his gnome garden at Cherokee Creek Boys Boarding SchoolIt was with skepticism that I first brought the idea of miniature gardening to the boys at Cherokee Creek Boys School. Everywhere you look on Pinterest and Facebook, gardening in miniature is referred to as “Fairy Gardens” or “Gnome Gardens” featuring whimsical creatures with wings. How would this go over with middle school boys for a summer project?

Nonetheless, I made a few treks to the local gardening store in search of pots, soil, stones, succulents, and other supplies that I thought would aid in creating cool, boy-centric gardens. Meanwhile, to build interest, I began work on an old terrarium that had been in my classroom for a while containing a stump and one straggly plant. For three years I had been waiting for an inspiring thought on what to do with it.

I started without comment by planting a few clippings from a succulent as well as a rooted Schefflera plant I had found as a broken and forgotten branch on the front porch. Just getting the latter to root was a huge success for me, the “Queen of Black Thumb Gardening”!

David and his gnome garden at Cherokee Creek Boys Boarding SchoolUsing a plastic spoon to dig little holes and trenches, I just started adding things: a little moss I found in my yard, a few mushrooms and a tiny little bridge I found on a fairy gardening website, a miniature birdbath with a frog in it, some stones. One by one, the boys asked me what I was doing. My answer to them was, “I don’t know. I’m just making it up as I go along.” However, they were intrigued. They wanted an old aquarium to do something with, too. Ah ha!

The next day in class, I pulled up a Pinterest page with lots of pictures of miniature gardens. “This is where I got the idea. Call it whatever you want boys, but who’s game for trying this?” I asked. Despite the preponderance of fairies, they quickly started researching ideas for their own little landscapes. Once planned, they worked for days, side-by-side digging, harvesting moss and ferns, placing rocks, building miniature bridges and houses, and fashioning little ornamentations with modeling clay and popsicle sticks. Some preferred containers and the search was on for broken pots and whatnot that would serve the purpose. Most wanted to beautify the campus on a larger scale and found nooks and niches to begin construction. The results are amazingly creative and downright cute!

Gnome garden project at Cherokee Creek Boys Boarding SchoolOne must look carefully when coming on campus to find the tiny little villages springing out of roots and under tree limbs, but they’re there. It goes to show that it’s never a given what might pique the interest of a middle school boy. However, odds are good that if it involves dirt, he will probably dig right in!

posted by jleslie in Discovering What is Real and True and have Comments Off on Dirt Therapy

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