I am happy to say that the garden has done very well, has continued to be cared for, and even expanded! Now there are not only native prairie plants, but a fence (with cloth weavings happening currently), a circle of stumps for sitting, raised planters with vegetables, a walkway, and more plantings. Clearly the school, the parents and children have been enjoying and utilizing this space - which brings me to this month's post..the importance (and joy) of a garden.
|This how it looked once we removed the grass and started planting...|
|This is how it looks today!|
|Here it is from another angle, more like the view in the "before" photo.|
There certainly is much to be learned in a garden. It doesn't have to be big to provide enormous benefits. "Childhood memories of contact with nature involve a deep sensory imprint of texture, smell, color and taste" (Louv 2005). Do you have memories from your childhood that involve plants, a garden or a forrest? I sure do and can picture those places as if I were there yesterday. All children should have the opportunity to form similar memories. What better place (if not at home) than in preschool!
If you follow any early childhood blogs you can find oodles of ideas related to gardening. There are so many wonderful ideas and activities it is difficult to choose only a few to share - but I will try! Please feel free to add your ideas. Gardens are for sharing and so are teaching ideas.
Here is a good place to start, a beautiful blog named Nurture Store, with many links and even an ebook "The Garden Classroom" you can order.
Another terrific blog that is packed full of garden inspiration is Little Green Fingers. Here you will find crafts, garden plans, timelines and budgets, ideas for small indoor gardens as well as grand outdoor spaces. You are sure to find a great deal of what you need to know to get started, in this one website.
Remember, a school garden can be a small spot outside, a large area near the school, or even on a windowsill within a classroom. If you are fortunate enough to have the space and resources for a large garden space outdoors, here are plans for raised beds...
Here is an example of a garden that uses a very small space in the recess of a school building. I love how it is arranged with seating space. Even though it looks quite shady they managed to find plants that work well and create a calm almost zen space. Note the awesome tile mosaics on the walls.
We know working (playing) with play dough supports fine motor development, can help develop social skills and is also a sensory experience for the child. Gardens are of course very sensory rich environments. Here you see an example of a sensory table that is set up with garden materials to explore - from Fantastic Fun & Learning! I have seen a similar set up using rainbow rice instead of soil.
Is there anything more inviting than a garden path? You can practically hear the garden beckoning you to explore. A path can be wood chips, gravel, stones or any material you can imagine really. Here is a recipe for making your own stepping stones.
- 1 cup of sand
- 1/2 cup of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon powderded alum
- 3/4 cup of hot water
- Food coloring of child's choice
- Assortment of items child would like to decorate with such as colored stones, small plastic toys, marbles etc.
What You Do:(This recipe only makes one stone) Might want to adjust to the size of your class.
We do a chart and ask the children what is their mother's favorite color and then go from there in making the dough.
- Mix sand, cornstarch, and alum in bowl.
- Add hot water, stirring vigorously until well blended.
- Add food coloring (if using) and blend.
- Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly.
- When cooled, Encourage children to flatten the dough out and make it the shape they prefer or use a large round container such as an old lid or a cake pan to make a round stone. Then it's time to decorate!
- Dry pieces in the sunshine for several days (do not bake).
If you love fairies (like I do) you can create an imagination sparking fairy garden. This is a popular craft these days and you can find endless inspiration on the web. It would be fun to have a fairy garden corner outside on the play ground and a small container fairy garden for indoor play.
Here is a teenie one I made this summer. I found the idea on Pinterest. Of course Pinterest is an amazing resource for ideas of all sorts.
You know I love Etsy, and find many useful materials for the classroom there. These garden themed felt activities are especially appealing. I may just have to invest! On the left you can see a handmade felt memory game from The Sagicollection. Below is a felt veggie set. You could use them in your home play corner, or at circle for a memory or matching game. These are from Cris and Crafts.
A garden treasure hunt is a great activity! This treasure sheet is from Tiny Green Fingers. There is much to see and learn about in a garden - besides flowers!
|From Little Green Fingers blog|
...and here's another!
|From Mommy and Munchkins (love this name!)|
I hope these ideas have helped inspire you to create a garden at your school! There really are so many benefits it's hard to list them all. A garden can support growth in all developmental domains. "Gardening provides different forms of engagement for children, including designing, planting, and main- taining gardens; harvesting, preparing, and sharing food; working cooperatively in groups; learning about science and nutrition; and creating art and stories inspired by gardens" (Children & Nature Network).
Enjoy the rest of your summer! May all your garden wishes come true....