Why did 20 potted plants suddenly appear on tables at the Gutman Library during Earth Week?

The Plant Project, initiated by Harvard Graduate School of Education student Erica Fine and supported with funding from the HGSE Green Team, aimed to raise awareness of the benefits of green space for mental and physical health by bringing these benefits directly to HGSE students.

In addition to experiencing the benefits of the plants themselves, HGSE students learned about these benefits and about the restrictions and difficulties for young people in accessing green space, through fact sheets that accompanied each plant. At the end of the week, the plants were given away to students to take home, along with resources about the benefits of green space, particularly for children, and ideas about how to incorporate nature activities into the school day and increase nature access for young people.

The project also included chances for participants to reflect on how the plants, and nature in general, make them feel and to share their thoughts about the importance of nature for children.

Want to bring The Plant Project to your school?

You will need:

1. Plants

One potted plant per big table, or group of tables, and something to protect the tables (we repurposed compostable soup container lids from the Gutman café!)

2. Fact cards

Paper, tape, bamboo skewers, and facts about the benefits of nature and the limits or challenges in accessing nature for children (Children and Nature Network and National Wildlife Federation are great resources).

3. Reflection space

We provided space for reflection on slips of paper attached to the plants and on flip charts during give-away day.

Steps:

  1. Assemble fact cards and plants
  2. Place plants in library or office and watch for smiles! Leave for a week or more.
  3. Give plants away. Consider asking people to answer questions on flip charts about how the plants made them feel or the importance of nature for children before giving them a plant.

Considerations:

  1. Select plants that are easy to care for—low light, infrequent watering.
  2. Are there other events happening in the space that would require moving tables or plants? Check the operations to make sure the plants don’t get in their way.
  3. Consider event timing—this event doesn’t just need to be for Earth Week. When else would it have a big impact? During finals? In the middle of the winter?
  4. Other variations—flowers, succulents, etc.

Contributed by Erica Fine, ED.M. Candidate 2016, Harvard Graduate School of Education