Horticultural therapy has been around for a long time. Originally, it was mostly used to help patients with mental illness. As time went on, more therapists noted that there were multiple benefits of working with plants and in gardens. Horticulture therapy is used within rehabilitation, vocational, and community settings like schools. This therapy not only helps students to learn new skills, it is beneficial in many ways. Horticultural therapy may help students to work on social skills, increase cognitive ability, task initiation, and strengthening muscles. For those working with physical therapists on gross motor ability, they often see improvements with coordination, balance, and endurance after horticultural therapy is implemented.
Schools that are in warmer climates may be able to build therapeutic gardens for their students. These are spaces outside that are plant-dominated and designed to facilitate healing with nature. There may be spaces for quiet thought and more passive moments, or they may include areas for active sessions. These areas may then be utilized with horticultural therapists, along with other professionals from the school. Students may go outside with a physical therapist for a green space to work on muscle endurance exercises. Occupational therapists may enjoy sessions at a table to practice fine motor skills with children. These beautiful spaces may also provide a wonderful setting for speech and language sessions. Kids will be able to sit, walk, and talk about the setting and socialize more in the relaxed atmosphere. Of course, the therapeutic gardens may also be used with social workers, special education teachers, and others to go with kids as a safe space when they are anxious or need to decompress.
Other schools have working gardens that may be used for horticultural therapy. The outside gardens may be filled with only flowers, or they may grow vegetables during planting season. Kids can go outside with different teachers and therapists to work on skills while sustaining the growth. As an added bonus, gardening like this ties in with science that they could be learning in class. Some schools are also have built greenhouses for year round use. Greenhouse programs may be done as a community outreach with local farms that often will work with schools to teach kids about farming and additional life experiences.
Schools that are interested in horticultural therapy should look for these specially trained professionals within their community. Check into grants with farm co-ops or other agencies in your community about creating gardens and greenhouses within your district. Many times there are options available to help with the startup costs that may be difficult to budget.