Pre-K Garden’s Bounty

By Elvia J. Montanez, Director or the Pre-K program,
Holy Name of Mary School, San Dimas, CA

We’re just a single pre-k class in a pre-k through eighth grade school, but the children and parents have helped create a beautiful and bountiful garden.  It is actually the space of dirt found in a “U-shape” between parking spaces in our parish parking lot.  This space is right outside our classroom door, which is convenient.  A former class parent helped remove dried bushes from the area in the summer months before the school year started, and a work weekend (which ended up being rainy, but we trudged on) with a few families prepared the soil.

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It’s not a large space at all, but our tiny garden has produced enough food and enjoyment to help feed various snack times for our four and five year old students, salads and vegetable trays were made on various occasions for the school and the parish staff, veggies went home (one gallon bag of lettuce per family/20 families and various other veggies at different times), families often picked lettuce or herbs to use at home, and at various times throughout the school year we sent carrots and lettuce (about 5 gallon zip bags each time) to our local homeless shelters during our school’s monthly collection of lunches (the Double Bag Lunch program) for the homeless in our area.  The children learned how to dry dill and hand made spice packets to take home their dried herbs.

This year we have grown dill, cilantro, lettuce, spinach, and carrots in the fall and winter.  We are currently caring for our spring and summer garden of squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers which were grown from seed.  Early on we planted wildflowers (also from seeds) because one of our students had hoped pre-k would be a place where she could pick flowers (and she did…almost daily).

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The children learned about farming and gardening from a “hand to mouth” experience.  At the beginning of the school year we took a field trip to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s pumpkin patch and farm store.  There the children harvested pumpkins, shopped the farm store to pick out fruits and vegetables for the week, and watched day laborers plant a field of strawberries.  The week after, the children planted their winter garden from seed.  They cared for it and eventually harvested the bounty for snacks which they prepared and washed themselves.  In the early stages of the garden we were blessed with a finding of ladybug larva on a nearby tree.  The larva was collected, observed and eventually the lady bugs were released into the garden.  Over the winter months they seemed to multiply, giving the children a lesson on sustaining healthy plants without aphids and great joy in catching and releasing them.

Recently, the children learned how to collect seeds from their plants which will be used for next year’s garden.

Probably one of the most memorable moments in gardening was watching a young student who wouldn’t touch fruits or vegetables at the start of the school year, end up being one of the students who takes the most enjoyment from gardening and harvesting its fruits and vegetables.  She still won’t eat them, but doesn’t complain when placed in front of her at snack time and loves preparing the snacks for others to eat.

Our garden has been used in math centers, science centers, and even art centers (we took the brown, wilted leaves of the lettuce and painted with them).  We have several families who have started their own gardens at home as a result of the impact the school garden has had on their children.  It has been an awesome experience!

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One Response to Pre-K Garden’s Bounty

  1. Bishnu says:

    Awesome. I really liked it. Even I am motivated to do it with my Pre-K class this spring( gardening outdoor) as we have some space. But I need to talk with the Director first.

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