If They Grow It, They’ll Eat It7 Tips for Pre-School Edible Gardens
If they GROW it, they’ll EAT it:“The children love to harvest the fruit and vegetables they have grown. They make a new sign for our family style saladbar each day, highlighting which parts of the green salad came from our garden – complete with a hand drawn picture ofthe vegetable or edible flower.” – Simone Taylor, Redwood Community Action AgencyIf you ask a young child where food comes from, the most common answer is the grocery store. Understanding wherefood comes from and how fruits and vegetables are harvested is essential to understanding better nutritional values andpractices. The more exposure and understanding of this, the better chance a child has at eating healthier and avoiding badfood habits. The key here is introducing more fruits and vegetables to a child’s diet. What better way to start the processearly in a child’s life than by introducing a school garden program where kids are growing their own fruits and vegetables.The children feel a sense of pride in their school gardening efforts. Being interested in what is grown in the gardencompels the children to be more willing to try the fruits of their labor. Eating fruits and vegetables may be a struggle athome, but with school gardening activities it connects them to the food.“The children eat the food they grow and share it with their families.They also enjoyed discovering how much things had grown They are much more interested in eating their veggies now!”– Karna Allen, The Salvation Army Harbor House Childcare CenterCalifornia preschools from across the state have experienced results in exposing young children to better eating habitsby implementing a school garden program. The entire gardening process is a journey of discovery for these youngchildren. What better place to expose a better diet for their futures than by planting, growing, harvesting and eating theirown food.“The grant package helped us to sustain our garden in a numerous amount of ways, but the most noticeable ways were probablythe variety of fruits and vegetables in our garden this year, as well as supplying us with new tools for the garden.The array ofvegetables this year got the children open to trying new things.They learned that they really liked squash, but also learned thatmany of them didn’t like beets. Getting children to try new food is always a plus, so you could imagine how excited I was whenmy whole class tried all the fruits and vegetables from the garden.The tools were also a big thing that the grant helped out with.Since we were able to supply the children with new gardening tools, the children got more of a chance to help out with the wholegardening process.They loved getting the shovels and turning the dirt.They also loved raking the dirt into rows for the garden.”– Danielle Roberts, Family Matters Child Care CenterThis guide has been written to help preschools develop a garden program of their own.Findings in a recent study by the Center for Disease Control for adolescence and school health provide more value inthe cause for having a school garden: Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth and development and can preventhealth problems such as obesity, dental caries, iron deficiency, and osteoporosis. Schools are in a unique position to promote healthy eating and help ensure appropriate food and nutrient intakeamong students. Schools provide students with opportunities to consume an array of foods and beveragesthroughout the school day and enable students to learn about and practice healthy eating behaviors. Schools should ensure that only nutritious and appealing foods and beverages are provided in school cafeterias,vending machines, snack bars, school stores, and other venues that offer food and beverages to students. In addition,nutrition education should be part of a comprehensive school health education curriculum.Source – CDC.com
School Garden Guide Checklist1. Western Growers Foundation GrantThis is how you can fund your school garden. Money will be available to start your garden program. This willafford purchasing of supplies, garden boxes, tools, seeds, and learning materials. This can be accomplished on anycampus with any amount of space available. If you’re limited in space, raised garden boxes can be built to housethe garden.2. CSGN.orgOur website will help guide and supplement the garden start-up with added information for the novice andadvanced gardener. Stay connected with the California school garden movement here. Watch videos, read articles,and include your garden’s story here.3. Garden LessonsLessons can be incorporated for the entire school. From healthy eating habits, to practical growing andharvesting, to more advanced science lessons, the school garden will serve many different roles. See our 7-Tipssection for ideas on how the garden becomes a lesson on its own.4. Added ValueThe school garden will be a place of discovery for young students. This is where they will learn about new foodsand try new things. Students love watering the garden! The growing plants become fruit where food and healthyeating habits are introduced.5. Garden TimeHaving a garden means more time outside for the students. More time is spent outside working in the gardenand the students will enjoy this break from the classroom. The students will be up and moving by taking part inthe environment of the garden. Some students will want to work in the garden beyond the required time as theyacquire a passion for it.6. LeadershipHaving staff leadership and direction will enhance the overall health of the garden. This will also create leadershipwithin the students and ownership of the garden.7. Tips and AdviceStrong volunteers and parent involvement can lead to a long lasting garden. With community support, the gardenwill reach heights that not all teachers have the time for because of already full schedules. The garden does taketime but it doesn’t feel like work!8. Garden BenefitsHealthier eating habits will be introduced by knowing where the food they are eating comes from. This is a goodthing! Eating more fruits and vegetables is the theme here.9. WellnessLearning about fruits and vegetables at an early age can carry on for a lifetime of healthier eating choices.10. Sustainability and OrganicThese buzz words are more than just words when a young student can actually define these by practicing thesemethods. The healthy teachings of this lifestyle can be learned by implementing a school garden program.
7 Tips for Preschool Edible GardensTIP #1Patience – Learning about the plant life cycleSchool gardens allow the students to experience the plant lifecycle, which takes time and patience. The young students seehow the farming and growing process work. Patience practicedat the school garden often carries over to other areas.The students learn about the different seeds of fruits andvegetables and how these are planted and cared for while theplants grow. The weather patterns and cycles are also greatteaching moments for the students.Rainy Days“After a rainy day, one of the children told the teacher that thevegetables were not going to grow because there was no sun.Theteacher explained that the rain was good for the garden and itwould help things to grow which is why they watered the garden. Later that week the teacher asked the children what does a plantneed to grow and the child responded, ’sun and water, because it didn’t rain today.’” – Danielle Triplett, HorizonsYoung students in a garden program will also value the importance of taking care of something. They learn very quicklythat watering a plant is more than just pouring water into the ground after the plants begin to grow and come to life. Asa plant is cared for, it begins to mature. This process is where patience is taught and valued. After time, the plants startshowing fruit and this is where the ‘light bulb’ will come on for most students. They can see their hard work pay off andactual see the teachings of the plant life cycle happening in their school garden.“Children were able to have hands-on experience with preparing the soil, planting, watering, and watching the veggies grow. Alongwith the Science curriculum, we were able to dissect everything about planting from soil, seeds, roots, to the growing vegetables.We talked about different herbs and how they are different in smell. We also talked about vegetables in season. We had a greatseason of organic veggies that we turned in to cooking activities in each classroom. We had vegetable soup and pickles, parentstook herbs home to cook with children. In addition, we also used the soil and insects that lived in it to explain to children the cycleof life. So many topics. it was an endless year with lots of fun and information for children (and parents).”– Namyoung Lisa Kim, KYCC Children’s CenterTIP #2Trash – What Trash?Sustainability might be too big of a word for pre-school students,but the idea is one that can be taught. Here’s an example of howkids can see the value of waste in a new way:
“A moment that comes to me is showing the cycle of life to a group of kindergarteners by cutting down the garlic braid we hadmade in the summer and using it as seed bulb for our fall sowing.The children actively participated in fertilizing the earth withrecycled organic matter, planting it with stock that they had earlier harvested and grown on the same site. They were intricatelyinvolved in the rhythms of nature, the seasons, and the cycles of life and you could see it in their eyes.”– Tara Blaine, Beginners Inc.TIP #3Creatures Are GreatOnce a garden starts to mature, the creatures will start appearing and find a home of their own. This can be great fun forthe kids and little scary for others. The bugs of the garden are a great teaching lesson in what bugs need to survive andhow bugs feed off the garden. This relationship is essential for the gardens success and teaches the children the functionof bugs. From worms to bees to butterflies, there’s a lot going on in a garden that the kids get to experience up close.What better place to see bees and worms hard at work?Bugs Are Good“We focused on plant lifespan and which plants are considered fruits, vegetables and/or herbs.We adapted these topics by addingthings like the lifespan of a butterfly.We raised butterflies in the classroom and then released them in our garden. Children madebutterflies of their own. Later we noticed that caterpillars were forming in our garden as well.The children were very explorativeabout the new additions we hadn’t added ourselves.To expand as the weeks past the children did activities on bugs and how theyaffect our garden. Children made bugs out of rocks. Some took them home and some placed them in our garden. Curriculum in thegarden at times emerged and child-centered as they became the leaders of their interest much of the time as well.”– LaMonica Hopkins, Board of Trustees of the Glide FoundationA Bug Story – Operation Relocation“I have this one child in my class who is completely fascinated by insects and other bugs. She tends to get the class into them aswell. Well one week she noticed these big ‘green caterpillars’ on the tomato plants. She was extremely fascinated by them, and tookone and showed everyone else. I had no idea what it was, so I gave myself homework for that night and researched them. Cometo find out they were actually pest.They weren’t going to turn into beautiful butterflies, but instead a Five-Spotted Hawkmoth. Sothe next day we discussed the hornworms. Once they found out they were going to eat our tomatoes we had to figure out whatwe were going to do about them. Some of the suggestions included ‘let them stay kill them; and taking them off.’ We decided onOperation Relocation. Operation Relocation was us picking off the hornworms putting them in a box with a small tomato plant wepulled up (so they wouldn’t starve) and taking them to a park.That one child’s love of bugs took us on this wonderful adventure.”– Danielle Roberts, Family Matters Child Care CenterThe garden has several parts to enjoy. Some might enjoy farming. Some will enjoy the dirt. While others will enjoy thebugs!TIP #4Teamwork Grows Good ThingsIt takes a team of people to make a garden grow. From classroomteachers, to parents and community support, the more people involvedthe better chance the garden has for longevity.
Start Recruiting Volunteers Early“To help establish the garden, we recruited parent volunteers to build the beds and fill them with soil. We were able to invite themto do this during our agency clean-up day. Once the garden beds were available to the classrooms, teachers added gardening totheir daily routine and lesson plans. Each classroom has different ideas and plans on how to garden, however, the majority spendapproximately 30 minutes per week in the garden.We also invited parent volunteers to help during the Family Literacy Event.Various activities involving literacy and healthy habits were available to children and families. The gardening activity was set upoutside and children were given planting materials such as small pots, soil and seeds. Children decorated their pots, planted theirseeds and took them home to harvest.” – Isabel Simard, Orange County Head Start Inc.The school garden also promotes teamwork with the children. The students work in collaborative groups planting,growing, harvesting, cleaning, and maintaining the garden. This creates a social environment as well where communicatingat an early age will carry over to other areas in the classroom and at home.Here’s an idea to insure each home knows about the school garden:“We include children and their parents in the process. Each child, with their parents, plant a seed and took it home . . .When theseed began to grow they brought it back and we plant it in our garden bed.We asked for volunteers to help build our garden areaand