On a bright, sunny morning, about 10 preschool students spent their morning picking radishes, green peppers, broccoli, banana peppers, cauliflower and lettuce from a garden. Other children washed and organized the vegetables, while another small group spread worm castings in the garden. For the children in Kid’s World’s four-year-old preschool classroom, gardening is not just a hobby. It is the topic of their current project. The students know how to identify vegetables; they measure the plants; and they learn to understand the science behind it.
Upon picking a green pepper, preschooler Ashlyn Lasley exclaimed, “I can’t believe we actually planted this pepper! We did it! We grew a pepper!”
Zane Clark enthusiastically added, “I know! We’re really harvesting!”
Comments like these are heard daily in Kid’s World’s Children’s Garden. Kid’s World was approached by Hy-Vee in the spring about implementing a Children’s Garden at the Center. Kid’s World director, Terri Johnson, and her staff were immediately intrigued by the proposal. The goal of the program was to help the children plant the seeds for healthy habits. The “Sprouts – Get Out and Grow” kids’ garden and cooking program would provide a seed-to-table experience for the young children in an effort to foster a love of vegetables.
The Kid’s World parents immediately became involved in the project as Ryan Stober volunteered to till the garden area. Hy-Vee supplied the Center with seeds and plants while parents brought in child-sized gardening gloves, watering cans, additional seeds, etc.
Over the summer, the children in the preschool summer camp program visit the garden on a daily basis (weather permitting). They are involved in every aspect of the garden from planting to weeding to watering to harvesting. The children also participate in discussions and lessons about different vegetables during their daily science talk meetings. The children write in their journals and draw pictures of vegetables. Each week, the children focus on a different vegetable. They explore the vegetable using their senses and then use the vegetable in a recipe. The children then enjoy the food during lunch. The children also participate in a taste test for each vegetable. The children have three options for their responses to the tasting: “I like it a lot,” “I like it a little” and “I don't like it much yet.” The final response helps the children understand that they don’t all have to agree on the taste of the vegetable. However, it also teaches them to be respectful to the opinions of others.
The children are adding some art elements into their garden project as well. The children have made stepping stones and gazing balls for the garden. They are also in the process of making a scarecrow. The art activities help to add to the children’s sense of ownership of the garden.