Adolescent wearing a blue shirt on hands and knees works in the raised garden bed with classmates.

Sulphur Springs K-8 Community Partnership School students harvest sweet potatoes for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nature and Nurture

Alfred Austin, an English poet once wrote, “The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”  

The Tampa YMCA and the Sulphur Springs K-8 Community Partnership School provide students with the opportunity to feed their bodies and souls by planting, growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables in our Learning Garden.  

Earlier this month, a group of five fifth graders joined Mr. David, the Learning Garden’s lead gardener, for an afternoon of nature and nurture. The students picked starfruit, harvested sweet potatoes and propagated tomato plants.

Giving Thanks for Personal Growth

The Sulphur Springs students learn valuable personal growth lessons each time they visit the garden.

Students learn:  

  • A sense of pride
    • The students have the opportunity to take a little seed and watch it grow into food to feed their families. Their strong sense of pride is palpable as they experience the time and energy it takes to produce a flourishing garden. 
  • Increased self-sufficiency
    • Growing a garden allows the students to obtain healthy fruits and vegetables while helping their parents save money at the grocery store! 
  • Patience  
    • Patience can be challenging for school-age children and gardening is a great way for them to flex that muscle. Gardening in its simplest form is a lesson in “good things come to those who wait.” At the beginning of the school year, the students planted sweet potato slips, cared for them and were able to harvest them just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday!
  • The mental and physical benefits of the food they grow  
    • There are numerous health benefits to growing a garden. The students and their families are able to eat the nutritious food they grow, and scientific studies show getting dirt under your nails releases serotonin in our brains. This is important because serotonin makes us feel happy! Gardening also teaches the students that everything has a season. Seeing the seasons change in the garden helps the students realize everything is cyclical and that change is natural.  
  • How to relax  
    • Gardening allows the students to step back and enjoy the slow and simple things in life. They are given an outlet to feel rooted in tasks like watering, weeding, and harvesting.
  • ​​​​​​​A sense of responsibility
    • As relaxing as gardening can be – it also helps evoke a sense of responsibility for the students. The plants in the students’ care depend on them for nutrients. Without proper care, the plants will wither away and die. 

“We are very thankful for our Farm to School grant with the USDA for allowing us to provide students with the opportunity to work in the Learning Garden,” shares Nicole Ketterman, Healthy and Safe Children Director at the Tampa YMCA. “It’s great to see the students working together, finding an appreciation of where food comes from, and even sparking a passion for gardening.” 

potatoes in raised garden bed

​​​​​​​The YMCA Learning Garden provides students with opportunities to be responsible, accountable and patient. They are excited and eager to bring home food for their families throughout the school year, and especially during the holiday season.

You can learn more about the work the Tampa YMCA and Sulphur Springs K-8 Community Partnership School are doing in our community today!  

Published Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022