Garden with Children and Learn
in the garden
I enjoy growing things. This past week I was able to enjoy my passtime with students from kindergarten to grade four at a local school.
Earlier this year I had a chat at a Rotary luncheon with the school’s community liaison and the subject of the garden in the front of the school came up.
At that time it was under four feet of snow so there was little to see but we set up a meeting with the principal to discuss what was wanted.
The meeting went well and the project developed as the snow melted and the earth warmed.
It all came together last week when I got together with the community liaison and children from kindergarten through grade four to plant.
The previous week the teachers and I prepared the soil and put in a few shrubs, the students were going to plant violas to add some quick colour to the site. The viola can self seed so it is likely that some of them will reappear in the spring next year.
The first group to plant were all in kindergarten and we used tablespoons for trowels. I showed them how to remove the violas from the containers they were in and how to plant them. They were excited and took obvious pleasure in doing this. I felt a strong connection at that moment as that is how I feel when I plant something.
The children’s intensity and eagerness was inspiring and had I needed a lift that day they would have provided it.
They approached the task as though it was the most important thing they had to do and were proud when it was completed. They also wanted to keep on planting. On young girl, she was the shortest one in the group was quite adept at planting and she patiently explained that was because she gardened with her mommy.
The next day it was the school’s environmental club that joined us in planning more violas. We had about 60 plants to go in so there was enough for everyone to plant at least two each.
All the students were eager to plant; however, some more eager than others and the group began to loose cohesion and grow noisy. The principal came out at that moment and things became quiet fast. She did not have to say anything just looked at them and they stopped arguing.
From that point on they took turns, watering and selecting their plants, even helping each other separate the violas which were in six packs.
On day two we spent the afternoon with four students who had been chosen as helpers by their teacher. Only one of the two girls had previous gardening experience again with her mom. She was soon helping the other girl plant.
As the group dug the holes, separated the plants, put them in the holes and backfilled the holes, they encountered a number of creatures, earthworms mostly but an earwig or two as well. They were less than thrilled with these encounters but as I explained the earthworms were garden helpers and made the soil healthier so the plants could grow, they were less leery.
This lead to a discussion of soil, now I can explain that our food system begins with the soil fairly well to an adult but explaining this to 9 year olds is another matter.
I look for opportunities, such as this, because, one I think all children should learn at a fairly young age about the importance of soil to our health and two if I am not able to explain the soil food web to nine year olds then I really do not know my stuff as well as I think I do.
Children are eager learners but they can be a hard sell; one of the boys was not buying the story that his hamburger had anything to do with soil. As we talked I had to refine my thinking and avoid talking down to him but making sure I use terms that he could understand.
There is nothing like talking with a child to help you put your self into perspective and get over any false notions of your own skills that you may possess. After our soil-food discussion was over, the teacher and the two girls went in to get the hose and he and I talked about plants.
He asked me if the one he had planted would come up next year. I said that they were what was called self-seeding annuals which meant they would disperse their seeds and some of those seeds would come back next year.
The girls organized the watering with each student doing three plants and then passing the watering can on to the next.
I had a great time and feel wiser now, including children in the gardening experience benefits all involved and takes an important step towards growing future gardeners.