by Susan Viers
“Where schools are equipped with gardens…opportunities exist for reproducing situations for life, and for acquiring and applying information and ideas in carrying forward of progressive experiences…they (gardens) are a means for making a study of the facts of growth, the chemistry of soil, the role of light, air, moisture, injurious and helpful animal life, etc.”. Dewey, 1944.
Throughout the last century plus, the school-garden movement has gone from being the trend, to not at all, and then back to being a trend in educational reform. What began with school children helping to grow food for the nation during World War I is now an antidote to what has been termed as nature deficit disorder.
The garden is a master teacher. In the garden we learn about cultivating and caring, patience and discovery, stewardship and respect, beauty and life. We also learn practical skills such as: mathematics, science, health, and nutrition. In addition, “research has shown us that when the connection has been made with the natural world, the child’s mind becomes centered and focused and eager to attack the other areas of academia.” Kirsten Berhan, The Garden, A Master Teacher.
Our Pre-K Children are loving the new Edible Classroom gardens! On Thursdays, the PreK children go out to the garden and talk with Rebecca Forbes, a Master Gardener, to learn, dig, plant, compare, and investigate. Lessons have included: learning about vegetables where the part that we eat grows under the soil, and those that grow above; studying germination of seeds; and discovering parts of a plant. The students water their plants every day right now and will begin to thin out the beds as the plants get a little bigger. In addition, they will learn about good and bad bugs, weeds and compost. Students are inspired to ask questions and seek answers through their own research and observations. They will keep a journal in which they will illustrate what they have seen and done while in the garden area. The harvest will take place in about 30 days and the children will eat, or cook something with, those things that they have grown.
As the months go on, the children will be learning, exploring, observing and developing the critical thinking needed to be successful learners as they matriculate. Our Edible Classroom is a sensory rich change in setting from the classroom, providing the students with many opportunities that cross all areas of development and it’s just outside the door.