Harvest time at The Children’s Schoolhouse is bountiful this year as families enjoy a new community garden built by the cooperative preschool in Huntersville. Consisting of 11 four by six raised wooden beds, the garden enhances the natural beauty of the historic school. Meanwhile, families are learning organic gardening principles while growing nutritious foods.
The garden is an addition to the raised beds currently maintained for student learning and exploration, and the food harvested is prepared as a snack for the children. Children’s Schoolhouse teachers envisioned the gardening space as part of a growing edible garden that helps strengthen community bonds at the school. Garden plants include fruit trees, blueberry bushes, herbs and pollinator flowers, along with seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Nine years ago, Schoolhouse teachers harvested their first crop of red leaf lettuce for the children to try. Last year, the students helped plant kale, a favorite morning snack.
According to Deb Estes, a teacher at the Schoolhouse, “by sowing seed and planting a garden with children, we are helping them develop an awareness of where their food comes from, helping them connect with the earth, and developing a love of nature.”
Additionally, the classroom utilizes low-waste, eco-friendly practices such as composting. All food scraps from snack and lunch are either fed to Schoolhouse chickens by the students or composted for garden use. The school also offers workshops to it’s parents and alumni each year on parenting topics, including gardening with children.
Share the joy of gardening with your children this fall! Here are some helpful tips from The Children’s Schoolhouse:
Make a Plan
Sit down with children to discuss a plan for the garden and encourage them to choose foods they enjoy or want to try. Browse seed packets or plants at the garden center for ideas. Even the pickiest eaters may try fresh broccoli from the garden if they have a hand in growing it. Opt for buying small plants in addition to seeds for children to learn various planting techniques and for faster yields. Don’t forget to add herbs in the mix! They are often easy to grow and delight a child’s senses.
Trust your children with a task that is age-appropriate, and let them work by your side. If gardening is a new experience for your child, give them a starter plot of land to work. Tools will include a hand shovel, rake, hoe and handcart.. Find real tools that either fit small hands or buy high-quality, metal tools designed for children. Plastic tools not only warp and break but fail to engage children. Come planting time, show children how to sow seeds, plant and stake plants, water the garden and more. Encourage children to get their hands dirty!
Explore and Enjoy
Gardens are a great opportunity for art that celebrates the seasons. Make scarecrows out of natural or found materials like old clothing or decorate and label plant stakes.
For fun with weather, hang a wind sock or mount a rain gauge or thermometer to monitor garden conditions. Once plants are larger, explore the garden for insects and observe the vast ecosystem a garden can create. When fruits are ripe, grab a basket and pick with your child.
About the Children’s Schoolhouse
The Children’s Schoolhouse was established in 1971 as a cooperative preschool based on sound principles of early childhood development. The preschool is guided by the core philosophy that children are naturally curious and intuitive people who thrive by exploring and discovering the world around them. An emergent curriculum encourages discovery learning through hands-on activities, open-ended situations and play in numerous centers at The Children’s Schoolhouse. For more information, visit the Web at thechildrensschoolhouse.com or call (704) 892-7724.