COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The sun was shining, birds chirping, and the bumblebees were buzzing amid the cacophony of little voices from seven pre-K classes as they took turns to bring their garden to life after a long winter’s sleep in front of the Defense Supply Center Columbus’ Child Development Center June 8.
The garden serves as an experiential learning experience and is an extension of the curriculum provided in the classroom.
“Children, with assistance from teachers, care for the garden by watering, pulling weeds and checking on the progress of the items growing,” DSCC Child Development Center Director Tracy Charles said. “Teachers also have classrooms discussions with children in terms of what it takes for the plants to grow, the lifecycle of the plants from garden to table, etc. Gardening encourages communication, builds on social/emotional development, instills responsibility, and teaches children valuable lessons about the importance of taking care of the world around them.”
This year’s garden includes cilantro, basil, parsley, peas, beans, pumpkins, zinnias and sunflowers. Food grown will be incorporated into meals and snacks prepared at the center.
Charles said caring for the garden is a center-wide project each year and is a joint partnership with the DSCC Environmental Division and the CDC.
“I really enjoy working with the staff at the CDC,” DSCC Environmental Division Chief Nicole Goicochea said. “They are all so dedicated to doing what is best for the kids and we can easily find common ground there. The staff knows that getting out into nature benefits the children and I know that teaching them about the natural world will also benefit the planet greatly in the future.”
The garden project is part of the Environmental Division’s efforts to provide environmental education and outreach to the CDC to include incorporating them into Arbor Day celebrations and composting efforts.
Goicochea guided the children in groups of two and three in the process of planting. First, they each received the tools of the trade – garden gloves and little shovels – and then were introduced to the plant or seeds to be planted. Goicochea led them to the perfect spot for each plant and had the children dig a hole for their plant in the dirt.
Popping each plant out of its little starter pot and catching it before it fell to the ground proved to be the most entertaining activity for most of the children participating. Goicochea would have one child pop the plant and the other would catch it to teach teamwork and cooperation.
“Teamwork makes…” Goicochea prompted, “The dream work,” a couple of the children exclaimed after planting a cilantro plant at the end of a row.
Another favorite activity was watering the plants from rainwater collected in two rain barrels stationed on both sides of the garden. Goicochea said the two barrels were installed to catch water from the center’s roof to help with storm water reduction by reducing the first flush of water into local streams.
Multiple plants and seeds were planted in wide rows so the children can walk around each one without trampling them as well as for redundancy in the garden as not all the plants will survive the season. Plants grow at different rates and some succumb to disease or pests while others will thrive. The children learn resiliency while observing the behavior of the plants in the garden all the way to harvest.
In addition to the day’s planting activity, children learned all about insects and their role in the garden as well. Several earthworms were unearthed in the planting process, bumblebees buzzed happily nearby, and several children were mesmerized by a roly-poly bug for several minutes while they waited their turn to tend to the garden. One child knew what the tiny insect was, crying out “Look! It’s a roly-poly!” The insect rolled up on itself several times as the children observed it.
According to the Ohio State University Extension, the insects are really called pillbugs and are beneficial to the garden as they break down decaying material through eating it and then returning the nutrients to the soil.
Watch a video below of the children repopulating their garden for the season