Summer Intentions – Environment as Third Teacher through Gardening

For our summer intention, the White Room also chose “The Environment as the Third Teacher”. In the White Room, this means the outdoor environment, and more specifically the PSA garden.

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In the garden, Kristin, our environmental specialist, gave us lessons in how we can help her care for the plants at PSA.  We committed to being her helpers all summer and we look forward to harvesting some delicious fruits and veggies!  We begin each morning in the garden. Kristin shows the White Room the proper way to water the garden and introduces us to the different types of plants and trees for which we will be caring.

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The pumpkin is really big!  I’m just keeping digging! Did you know we grow, too?  We keep growing when we eat!

When Kristin had a meeting and was unable to work in the garden in the morning, the White Room children were asked to step up to the task and they did a great job!  The children went out to the garden, observed the dirt, determined that the plants did need water, and got right down to business!  Giving the children this sense of responsibility for the plants helps them learn more about the process and allows them to feel a sense of ownership.

garden 9.jpgOur gardening experience is providing more than just science and sensory opportunities.  We are also getting to work on our large motor skills.  Whether we are kneeling to plant, jumping over flower beds, running from the hose water, or walking along the stone trim, we are practicing our coordination and balance.  Nature can give us so many lovely experiences!garden 8.png

One night, Madison had some pretty intense rain.  During this rain, the wood chips on the playground were washed away and landed in the grass at the base of the hill on the playground.  Since we are Kristin’s garden crew, we jumped to help her.

First we went to the piazza and Kristin explained to us what had happened.  The children listened attentively and were excited to be asked to help.

Kristin: We know that we use mulch to keep weeds from growing in our garden.  What do you think will happen to our grass if we leave the mulch on it?
Student:  It will die!
Student: We need to move it!

We followed Kristin to the back playground and the children got to work.  You could tell that everyone had a sense of how important this job was.  They were also so proud as they moved bucket after bucket of mulch back in to the correct places.  These children are capable and strong!garden woochgarden woodgarden woodc

A funny thing has begun to happen—as Kristin tries to get everyone on board for weeding and watering, the children are beginning to notice everything around them.  We love it!!  This week they noticed that there are holes all in the kale and cabbage plants.  But why?  We added this to our wondering wall.  Kristin came in and showed us a cabbage worm.  These little cuties apparently can eat a heck of a lot of leaves.  The children were amazed!  And to make it even more exciting, Kristin showed them a photo of a yellow jacket wasp eating a cabbage worm!  Wow!  We are amazed at just what we are learning right along with the children.  And we are so proud of the children directing their own learning by using their observational skills to guide them.

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Throughout the summer, we’ve noticed that the children have become incredible observers, and make educated guesses worthy of much older children. We have the environment to thank for these things!  The children are experiencing the joys of gardening and the pride of knowing that they are an important part of the magic that they are seeing each morning.  As we look at the world around us, we look more deeply into the Reggio concept that the environment truly is the third teacher. As much as we, as teachers, would like to take credit for the wonderful growth and learning that we are seeing in the children, it is clear that nature is the true teacher.

One parent was lucky enough to visit us right as we had just made our first harvest of two cucumbers.  It was exciting for the children to offer him a taste and share that important moment! We took the cucumbers inside and everyone got an opportunity to cut a slice off to taste.  Some liked it, some didn’t but the important thing was that every single child tried the cucumber and they felt proud of the fact that they had grown the cucumbers from seeds.  garen 11.png

How do we know when our vegetables and fruit are ripe? As the summer progresses, more and more of our fruits and vegetables are ready to harvest. I have been wondering how to talk with the children about waiting until things are ripe.

The children were very clear about the green one not being ready to eat. It was more interesting to find out what they thought would happen to the green one after it was picked. There was pretty clear consensus that it would never get ripe after it was picked. But why not? At first, one student said that it needed sunlight. I asked if I could put it on
the sidewalk outside so it could get sunlight. Olaf said that wouldn’t work because it was not connected to the tree any more.
So what about pumpkins? “They have to be orange!”
What about carrots? “Carrots are like pumpkins!”

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Last week we asked the children how long it would take for the 2 pumpkin plants to meet in the middle of the trellis.  The guesses were 60 days, 30 days, 6 days, and 3 days.  On Monday, we checked the progress and it appeared that it was getting close to connecting. By Wednesday the two plants had connected and passed each other.  The children were so excited!  Making predictions challenges the children to make educated guesses based on what they are able to observe and using past experiences that they have had.  garden t 2gadren t

While being outside is wonderful, sometimes a rainy day provides a welcome moment of quiet in the classroom.  The children are able to choose where they want to go and they are able to slow down and reflect on the indoor environment

Kristin gave us some plants to put in the sensory table and without any prompting, the children carefully removed them from pots and planted them in the dirt.  They were thoughtful as they talked about what the plants needed.garednn.png

Later, Kristin came to our room to answer the question, “why can’t we plant anymore?”. She showed the children how many days there are between the last frost and the first frost. She then looked at a pea packet and the children were able to determine that there actually are enough days to plant peas! But, they have to vine like the cucumbers and pumpkins, so… we designed a pea trellis! The design the children settled upon was a rainbow shape. Kristin got right to work and she and the children built it – in one day!

The children are so proud of their trellis. It was amazing how every single child had a part in it. Some carried dirt to fill pots, some bent the willow branches to make the arch, some wrapped it with string—this was truly a group endeavor. And we were able to introduce many math concepts into this activity. The peas have to be able to vine 3 feet. How tall is that? Is it shorter or taller than us? We counted all of the days for planting but then had to figure out how many days were left. That was hard to do but they did it!

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Keep an eye out for more documentation about our learning in the garden!

Reflection by Mollie Stetzer and Megan Tripp, White Room Co-Teachers