Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Garden is Ready!

We have been very excited about creating a gardening space at Bloom! We feel that hands-on, experiential learning about photosynthesis, composting, and biodiversity are extremely important for children this age. We believe that these experiences help children to try new foods, assist children in developing a more sophisticated palate, provide them with a practical understanding of where their food comes from, and provide them with nutritional habits that will set them up for a lifetime of physical well being.

Additionally, there are an increasing amount of studies which have shown that exposure to nature can aid physical healing, decrease symptoms of ADD, depression, and behavioral issues, improve social interaction and social bonding, and even research which shows that children who have access to natural play spaces (as opposed to concrete, or over-groomed, play spaces) exhibit higher levels of creativity, problem solving ability, and cooperation. Scientists have even put forth what is called the "biophilia hypothesis," the idea that human beings posses an innate attraction to nature and that natural environments contribute to feelings of peace and well being.

Earlier this month, the children began starting seeds indoors; already, a large number of them have begun germinating. Over Spring Break, we built seven raised beds and assembled a compost bin. I cannot wait to see the children carrying compost out to the bin!

One thing I have learned through past experience gardening in a Montessori environment, is that it is very important to retain some part of the garden as a plot of dirt. Digging, hoeing, raking, and shoveling are like all Practical Life activities, whereas, an adult hoes to rid the plot of weeds and aerate the soil, the child hoes because she finds it fulfilling (because the child is in the process of constructing him or herself). Montessori realized this during her observations of children in which she noticed them doing seemingly pointless activities like repetitively cleaning a table that was already spotless. As a result, if you don't begin your garden by setting aside a designated spot for digging, you will either find your vegetables being dug up (or weeded) by errant gardeners, or you will spend the entire summer chasing children out of the garden (obviously, not the intended result).

We also built a small tool shed to house the children's gardening tools.

Finally, I enlisted the help of my talented assistant Katie, who willingly spent some of her Spring Break creating these hand-painted signs for the garden.

For more information about the importance of nature to children, see Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv; for more information about the importance of experiential gardening to nutritional education, please see Raising an Adventurous Eater: Ideas and Inspiration from the Edible Schoolyard.

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