Not every child is going to jump to the chance to be a gardener, or to be outdoors for that matter. Not all children want to plant, dig and harvest. I have been working with children since I was 17 years old, which is alarmingly close to 20 years now, and I have always known and respected that each child is an individual.
In 2002 I trained as a Steiner teacher, and although I don’t identify myself as a Steiner teacher, in the same way I don’t call myself a punk just because I went to see NOFX (it was 1994), what I learned during those two pretty intense years of study was to teach the “whole child” and recognise the different temperaments in each child.
Steiner highlighted four temperaments which I have found very helpful in my teaching experience. I found that different activities engage and encourage children to find their own relationship and love for nature, and for growing their own food.
The four temperaments are Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholic. I thought I would share a little information about each temperament and some of the activities I use to get children to engage in the garden. I have to add that most children display sanguine tendencies until they are around seven and after this age their own temperament starts to shine through.
Cholerics are fiery, extroverts and are associated with summer. They are strong-willed, quick-tempered and natural leaders. They are hard workers who have a capacity for love and compassion but can get consumed by their own ego or competitiveness. They can be bossy and may struggle to listen to others well but they often display regret upon reflection. These children like physical activities such as moving soil and removing spent plants. I will often choose these children to be the leaders, of a carefully selected group, to encourage and guide their desire to lead and be heard.
Sanguines are social lighthearted beings associated with spring. They are often the life of the party and bursting with passion and ideas. They can become consumed by many ideas at once and will often dart from one activity to another without completing one in its entirety. They often care too much what others think and can be susceptible to peer pressure. These children are best suited to a range of small activities to complete in a set amount of time. For example “Natasha, could you please harvest peas, silver beet, lettuce and tomatoes. And while you are out there can you put any cabbage moth caterpillars you see on the fence and weed the beds. ” Yes I just outed myself as a hopeless sanguine!
Phlegmatics, associated with winter, are the tortoises, who slowly and steadily win the race. They are introverts who choose their tasks carefully and stick with them till the end. They love good food, comfort, order and repetition. They make loyal friends who are patient and dependable. Phlegmatics can have surprisingly bad tempers, once agitated they can unexpectedly fly off the handle. They don’t like being moved on from a task before they have completed it and this might just be enough to set off that temper. These children like to be brought into the garden gently, for example reading a garden story in the garden, and then being asked to perform a task. They enjoy planting, and mulching the garden beds. They also like harvesting and picking flowers but enjoy the process of cleaning, storing and of course eating the harvest the most.
Melancholics are our autumnal Eeyores. They are introverted and thoughtful. They are often a little sad and can take things to heart, but they have great ability to sympathise and respond to other people’s pain and they are able to talk about their feelings and thoughts openly. They are often hard on themselves and want only the best result from their tasks. They can get a little self-absorbed and think no one has it as hard as them. They like to nurture the garden through pruning, weeding, building garden protectors and checking on the worms. They especially like watering. I think they relate to the lethargic looking plants and get satisfaction from watching and aiding their recovery. They will also like to be set the task of drawing or writing in the garden, for example writing plant names on sticks or painting the garden beds.