COLUMBUS, Ohio –
School is almost out for the summer, but the children in the Kindergarten Preparatory class at Defense Supply Center Columbus’ Child Development Center just dug into a summer project – a garden with vegetables and flowers.
Dan Bell, Installation Support site director, engaged the children with questions about what they have planted and explained to the Pre-K classes that “we plant items for many reasons to include oxygen to breathe, food to eat and plants to see.”
Afterwards, the kids played yard games while taking turns planting in the garden.
The garden project started three years ago and is a joint partnership with the DSCC Environmental Office and the CDC.
The garden is a family garden shared between four Pre-K classrooms. The children are responsible for total upkeep of the garden from planting, weeding and maintaining, to harvesting and enjoying.
“I felt it was important for the kids to not only spend time outside, but to learn about their environment – where their food comes from, that water doesn’t just come from a faucet, that they can contribute to the environment,” said Nicole Goicochea, environmental protection specialist.
The primary obstacle after deciding to have a garden for the children was how to water the plants because there isn’t easy access to a hose or other viable sources of water. Project leaders decided to use rain barrels to collect rain water.
The benefit is two-fold. “The rain barrels allow the children easy access to the water, but it also teaches the kids the importance of water conservation,” said Goicochea.
Gardens provide a great way for children to learn about the ecosystem, even as young as 4 and 5 years old. Gardens are a great place for students to learn about basic academic subjects. While they learn about science, other lessons are incorporated such as math, art and team work.
Tracey Travis and Keisha Moorehead are both teachers at the CDC and said that they use the gardens as a hands-on learning opportunity to engage the students.
Travis’ classroom has recently sprouted acorns and observed the differences as they went through the changes. “In preparation for the garden, they’ve gone on nature walks, created collages and discussed growing various plants. The students are looking forward to the garden project this summer,” said Travis.
Having the kids involved is Morehead’s favorite part about the garden. She said, “Their ideas about what to plant help. Also, watching the kids get excited about the garden, documenting everything from drawing pictures, watering, measuring, and finally harvesting is great.
“It’s about getting the kids into a different environment, the front of the school rather than the playground. I teach them that gardening is more than just planting. It’s always evolving and something is always new.”
The children have also shown more interest in eating the various items they have grown. Travis said after harvesting, the children are excited and shout comments such as “this is yummy” and “I grew that one.”
A lasting benefit of the garden is that the children learning more than academics; they learn resiliency. While tending to the garden, children observe plants that grow at different rates and are various sizes. Some plants grow quickly, some struggle and others don’t survive.
Observing the differences teaches the students that when the plants are tended to and cared for after experiencing harsh climates, insects and other natural threats – they can spring back into shape often stronger than before. These observations teach resiliency.
Although, the teachers agree the best part about the school garden is the students aren’t thinking about the bigger picture and the lessons learned. Instead, they’re enjoying the little things – the way the lambs ear feels, the smell of the basil, the colors of the marigolds and enjoying time outside with nature.
The DSCC Environmental Office extends a special thank you to all involved with making this project a success: Dan Bell, Installation Support site director; Environmental Division: Nicole Goicochea and Nick Doss; Building, Equipment and Operations Branch: Jim Abbott, Al Robey and John Taylor; Child Development Center: Tracy Charles, Rock Kauser, LaQwalia Nalls as well as all the Pre-K teachers and their students.