Cultivating Mental Health: The Therapeutic Power of Gardening at Elevations

In recent years, the importance of mental health has gained recognition as a vital aspect of overall well-being. As professionals seek effective ways to promote emotional resilience and personal growth, they discover that nature can nurture and heal.

Elevations’s gardening program has taken root, offering students a therapeutic outlet beyond traditional methods. Led by Academic Director Jon Kortman, teacher of Math and Agricultural Science, this year-round gardening course has become a catalyst for positive change. As we begin our second year teaching Agricultural Science, we look forward to the incredible possibilities ahead as our program continues to grow.

In this blog post, we explore the mental health benefits of gardening as it relates to Elevations therapeutic programming.

Creating a Living Oasis

With the arrival of spring, students at Elevations embarked on an exciting journey of transformation. Under the guidance of Jon Kortman, they constructed a greenhouse and an indoor growing room. This hands-on approach enabled students to experience the joy of nurturing life from seed to bloom.

By cultivating various plants, including flowers, they set out to bring vibrant colors and living energy to the campus environment. Caring for these plants provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment, boosting self-esteem and fostering a connection with nature.

Collaborative Growth

The gardening program at Elevations goes beyond tending to plants. Through collaboration with a nutritionist and the kitchen staff, students can uniquely contribute to the campus community. By growing food for the cafeteria, they actively participate in the farm-to-table movement, connecting with the food they consume. Additionally, the composting of cafeteria scraps allows students to witness the cyclical nature of life, instilling a sense of responsibility and sustainability.

Nurturing Relationships

In the garden, students find solace and an opportunity to forge meaningful connections. Side by side with their teacher and peers, they learn to problem-solve and think critically. This collaborative environment promotes teamwork, empathy, and communication skills. Our Academic Director, Jon, becomes a role model, demonstrating resilience and adaptability in facing challenges. The shared experiences in the garden foster a sense of belonging and strengthen the bonds within our community.

A Source of Inspiration

The student’s enthusiasm for their gardening achievements is infectious. Their eagerness to share their progress with others encourages them to open the garden and green room to visitors. Their pride in their work shines through, brightening not only the physical space but also their spirits. Parents, too, are inspired by their children’s involvement in such a meaningful and engaging activity, recognizing its positive impact on their mental well-being.

Cultivating a Wider Impact

While the gardening program at Elevations directly benefits the students themselves, it also extends its reach beyond the campus. The ultimate goal is to produce flowers and food for campus and the surrounding community. Students learn the importance of altruism and community engagement by giving back and sharing the fruits of their labor. This sense of purpose and contribution fosters a deep understanding of fulfillment and connectedness with the world around them.

Incorporating gardening into the curriculum at Elevations has proven to be a transformative experience for students. The therapeutic benefits of nurturing plants, problem-solving, and collaborating within a supportive community are invaluable in promoting mental health and emotional well-being. As students witness the growth and beauty that emerges from the seeds they plant, they understand their own resilience and capacity for personal development. Gardens at Elevations nurture mental health, providing a unique and fulfilling path toward healing and self-discovery.


Author: Jon Kortman
Jon grew up in Michigan and moved to Utah in 2009 in search of adventure. That adventure continues today teaching Math, Agricultural Science, and serving as Academic Director at Elevations. He loves his work of building up young people in both their academic skills and their social-emotional skills. When not at work, he can be found in the mountains with his wife, kids, and dog Koda.

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