Close your eyes and think about how you feel when surrounded by nature in the mountains, on a meadow, in the surrounding forest, in your home garden or on a balcony full of plants. Do you feel more relaxed, calm, maybe even more tolerant? In his book Biophilia (1984), the American biologist Edward O. Wilson hypothesises that humans evolved in close contact with the natural environment and are therefore in harmony with nature. He describes the concept of biophilia as “connections that humans subconsciously seek with other living things.” According to Wilson, this connection is necessary for healthy emotional development and the well-being of individuals.
Therapeutic gardening (also known as therapeutic horticulture or social and therapeutic horticulture) is based on these facts. It involves the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental well-being, promote learning and skills development, and improve social inclusion and community participation.
The MeTURA – Back to the Roots project, coordinated by the Education Center Geoss from Litija, explores new, innovative lifelong learning opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. We focused on therapeutic gardening and therapeutic cooking, as these are activities that enable the satisfaction of basic human needs (nutrition) and which most of us certainly encounter daily. By carrying out these activities as a part of a guided process and with predetermined goals, we can achieve results that positively impact the increased independence of people with intellectual disabilities and the acquisition of key competencies, basic knowledge and skills.
The project partners attended a three-day online training to carry out therapeutic gardening, led by representatives of the partner organisation Thrive. It is an organisation from the United Kingdom that has been working in the field of social therapeutic horticulture and gardening for more than 40 years. Poor epidemiological conditions around the world have prevented us from visiting our partner organisation and conducting training at their headquarters, and we, therefore, carried out online meetings. Despite the distance, project partners and representatives of associated organisations obtained basic information on carrying out therapeutic gardening workshops.
With the knowledge we acquired, we will now train mentors, educators, employees and volunteers in organisations working with people with intellectual disabilities. Using the methodology developed in the project, they can then carry out therapeutic gardening and therapeutic cooking workshops.
For this purpose, the project partners, as part of the project, obtained funds and purchased raised garden beds, seedlings and kitchen utensils. The Educational Centre Geoss, together with an associated partner in the project, the Occupational Activity Centre Zagorje ob Savi, Litija unit, set up raised garden beds in their garden and near their unit. Zveza Sožitje – The Slovenian Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities, in cooperation with the Occupational Activity Centre Maribor and Ptuj, will place the raised garden beds in the garden of their residential units.
Sandra Katić and Tjaša Kozlevčar (email@example.com), Educational Centre Geoss