I recently came across this quote by Sigmund Freud, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” Some of those uglier ways that unexpressed emotions come forth can be acting out, depression and even physical symptoms, like a tummy ache or a headache. However, expressing our emotions can also be challenging, especially for children who may not have the maturity or even the words to express what they are feeling.
Research has shown the benefits of expressive writing; writing down negative feelings, or thoughts about a traumatic experience. There have also been studies done on how ripping up or destroying those writings can be liberating. But how can we connect with this emotional release in the Garden? Being outside and in nature can create a sense of peace and calmness which makes the school garden or outdoor classroom the perfect place to get out these emotions that may have built up within us.
The Write, Rip, Grow activity is great to use in the spring or fall as beds are prepared for planting. All you will need is paper and pencil, an unplanted garden bed, some leaf lettuce seeds or mesclun mix and some soil set aside for covering seeds. Instruct each student to write down a negative thought they want to release; it could be a thought about themselves, someone who’s been unkind, something they feel guilty about, or even just a worry. Then instruct them to rip it up (or wad it up) and bury their released emotions in the garden bed. Finally, smooth out the soil over top and water until moist. Have students scatter the leaf lettuce or mesclun mix and lightly cover with about ¼ inch of soil. Keeping the soil moist, seedlings will emerge in 7-10 days.
This activity allows students to name and express their emotion along with seeing something positive come from it. The paper with their thoughts will decompose making way for new thoughts to grow in their place.