Monday, June 4, 2012

My Experience Teaching Kids Gardening, Part 2

In my previous article I started writing about the wonderful experience I had conducting a gardening class at my son’s school. To give a brief recap, the first part of the class included reading a book on gardening to the kids, whose ages were 4 & 5 year olds, then we moved on to an actual gardening activity.

The gardening activity consisted of showing the kids how the expanding seed pellets work by adding warm water, then they planted a sunflower seed in each individual pellet. They were allowed to take this project home them so they could watch the sunflower grow.

As an update. My son’s own sunflower, he was a part of this class, now is about ten inches tall. When completely grown, his Mammoth Grey Sunflower can be as tall as twelve feet, although eight or nine is more common. He enjoys watching it everyday.

The second part of the gardening class was the outdoor portion. My son is fortunate as his school has an outdoor garden area that is well maintained. After speaking with the person in charge, the kids were given their own raised bed in the center of the garden courtyard which happens to receive the most sunlight, so I was pretty excited about that.

I originally had the idea of having each child plant tomatillos. I thought it was different and would be a lot of fun. After much debate though (debate with myself that is), I decided to go with the old reliable tomato. I changed my mind, because tomatoes are easy to grow, and by the time the school year ends, the plants will be big enough and should have some young tomatoes on it so the kids can actually see what they planted. Not saying tomatillos won’t, but tomatoes ended being a lot easier to explain.

I had germinated three different varieties from seeds. They were beefsteak, cherry and roma. I described each of the varieties to the children as follows, big and juicy (beefsteaks), small but tasty (cherry) and shaped like a football (romas). I am sure I could have come up with better descriptions, but felt these hit the point home with the age group I was working with. Can you guess which variety the kids chose the most? Post a comment with your answer.

The kids came over one by one and chose the variety they wanted to plant. Working with each child, one at a time, they dug a small hole and planted their tomato. I think what was just as fun was watching some of the other kids, simply play in the dirt while they waited their turn. One young man even dug a hole about 2 feet, in record time, mind you, until the teacher asked him to stop. Of course by then he had found a worm or two, and lets just say the “chasing the girls with worms” then ensued.

We planted a total of 16 altogether. Each plant was marked with a garden marker in which they wrote their names on previously. The teacher’s plan was to bring the students back out into the garden before the school year ends so that each child can check on the progress of their plant. Of course the school garden is open even when the school is not (on Saturday’s only), so parents and students are welcome to come back and harvest what they grew.

It was a rewarding experience. Before I had left, the kids put together a little thank you for me for coming in, by placing their thumbprints on a piece of construction paper, with their first names written underneath each print, and then giving their prints some eyes so as they looked like little bugs. I have that picture hanging on my office wall. A gift so simple, yet it means so much.

If you ever have the chance of doing something similar for your own child’s class, I say do it. It’s a lot of fun and rewarding.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the monthly Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

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