Last week, with the help of a PK parent, who is also a seasoned gardener, the children embarked on planting their very own classroom garden. This project was inspired by the discussions of spring and changing weather that were occurring both in the classroom and on daily walks to the park. After noticing many signs of spring both at home and school, the class made a collective list of what they had been observing. Many of these items focused around plants and flowers, leading us to create our own classroom garden.
As teachers we first wanted to introduce the children to the important responsibility that comes with caring for a garden. Because of this we decided to first plant already potted plants before planting from seed. The children worked in pairs to plant a variety of herbs and lettuce for the classroom garden. We also planted some sprouted pumpkin seeds, brought to us from a PK family.
PK children have a growing vocabulary and use language for a many purposes. Throughout the planting process, the children used a variety of positional and descriptive words to communicate their actions. Through authentic, meaningful experiences, children gain the understanding of the power of words.
After the herb and vegetable boxes were planted, the children emphasized the fact that we needed to make signs to mark which plant was which. Having read some gardening and planting books in the classroom, the children were familiar with the practice of marking plants with sticks and labels. We provided some paper, writing implements, and the correct spelling of each plant and let the children add their personal touches to each sign. In the early stages of writing, it is common for children to experiment with letters, often adding animism to them, such as hearts for dotting eyes, faces in the letter O, etc. The sign makers exchanged quite a few laughs as they made silly E's with eye lashes, and H's with arms and feet! On Friday, the children shared their planting and signage at our All School Meeting.
This week the children have been watering and caring for our herbs and vegetables. On a recent walk to the park, we observed a beekeeper and gardener working atop Carnivale's rooftop. This led to a thoughtful discussion of why a restaurant would need to keep their own bees and grow a garden. The children have been generating ideas of how we will use our garden in a purposeful way as it continues to grow.
Meg Fitzgerald is the lead teacher and Madeline Wadington is the Apprentice teacher in the PK classroom at Bennett Day School in Chicago, IL.