New House of Hope Environmental Program: “Throwing Seeds”

House of Hope is proud to announce its new environmental education program, “Throwing Seeds.” Despite a shortage of outdoor green areas for Palestinian children in the West Bank, teachers located a natural space a mere ten minute walk from the school. Teachers will bring students to the space every other week to plant gardens and connect with nature.

The future site of House of Hope’s “Throwing Seeds” environmental education program

“When a farmer throws seeds, they don’t know what will happen, but they trust the natural process. Our students will learn that you must always have good intentions and throw seeds and wait for the growth to happen,” said Manar Wahhab Vosgueritchian, cofounder of House of Hope and director of the Throwing Seeds program. “We are teaching our students that if you want good fruits you need to take care of land and trees. But it’s also a metaphor for spiritual and physical growth: how you plant seeds for growth in the earth and in the soul.”

First sprouts in the Throwing Seeds winter garden

Why go outside?

Schoolchildren who are exposed to more greenery show signs of improved cognitive function and memory compared to those who aren’t. A recent study, “Green spaces and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren”, published in the journal PNAS, found that being exposed to nature resulted in a five percent increase in working memory in kids. The researchers reviewed data on some 2,600 schoolchildren in Barcelona, aged 7 to 10. In addition to improved memory, the researchers also noticed green spaces boosted the kids’ attention.

“This study, based on comprehensive characterization of outdoor surrounding greenness (at home, school, and during commuting) and repeated computerized cognitive tests in schoolchildren, found an improvement in cognitive development associated with surrounding greenness, particularly with greenness at schools,” the authors wrote.

 

At the “Throwing Seeds” greenspace

Spending time outside is also huge outlet for reducing stress. And there’s data to back this up. In 2014, researchers from the University of Colorado teamed up with educators from Maryland and Colorado to study the effects that green schoolyards had on children’s stress levels and resilience. They made the argument that increasing children’s exposure to green outdoor spaces could help decrease children’s’ stress levels by offering them an escape from life challenges.

Greenspace Healing in the West Bank

House of Hope staff have been preparing the Throwing Seeds greenspace and will bring its first group of students to it in mid December. Students will plant and care for gardens of vegetables and fruit to be later eaten by the students. Back in the classroom, they will discuss the plants they saw: ecological life cycles, recipes for healthy eating, and observations of nature. Teachers will also lead students in therapeutic outdoor activities designed to reduce stress, increase self esteem and deepen their awareness of themselves.

Manar’s hand after a day of preparing the “Throwing Seeds” greenspace

“When you listen to nature, when you just observe and be present you don’t have to think or worry. There is so much to explore and learn in nature. But in the beginning you just observe and then the magic happens. Your mind slows down and you stop listening to negative thoughts and are with whatever is in front of you,” said Manar. “Nature is slow and precise; it’s the real teacher. When we bring our students to the greenspace, they put their attention into what they are doing. The now and here. They are present with all their senses. This is when growth happens, when they are able to slow down enough with nature and really hear themselves.”