Tips from an intern at the New Hanover Arboretum

Have you ever noticed that you feel calmer, relaxed or in a better mood when you spend time outside? Perhaps at some point you have participated in a gardening activity that has made you feel more connected to the world around you. As society distances us as human beings from nature, it is important for us to spend more time outdoors as a reminder of who we really are. The restorative feelings we often have while spending time in nature can be described as therapeutic gardening, a term that broadly expresses how nature and gardening activities can be used to help deepen the connection between people and plants by strengthening body, mind and spirit Connection.

During my time as an intern at the NC Cooperative Extension’s Ability Garden located at the New Hanover County Arboretum, I was often asked what specialty led me to this internship. I noticed confused faces as I answered, “public health.” During my public health course at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, I learned the impact gardening can create in the community around me.

Natalie Noftsger, UNCW Public Health Intern with Ability Garden at NC Cooperative Extension - New Hanover County at the Arboretum, leads a yoga class.

This semester I worked with Lake Forest Academy, an alternative school where elementary and middle school kids can be placed for a variety of reasons, some including behavioral issues, mental health issues, or being victims of abuse or neglect. Ability Garden works with the Lake Forest Garden Club to educate students about gardening, provide therapeutic benefits and guide students to develop a connection with nature. From a public health perspective, students engage in ways that help improve mental health outcomes, increase physical activity while gardening, and increase knowledge about different food crops grown in the garden.

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