S: Inventing a Garden with Young Children: a year long study about food, life and the beauty and wonder of the natural wold
FC: Inventing a Garden with Young Children: a year long study about food, life and the beauty and wonder of the natural world in two early childhood classrooms
1: This book was created through a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. We appreciate their support, as well as the continued support of the Idaho Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.
2: Friends of Children and Families Head Start program has four classes at Madison Early Childhood Center in Boise. This year, two of the classes took on a long term inquiry project working to study and understand our relationship to the natural world using the following as guiding concepts: life cycles stewardship healthy foods/nutrition composting We created a garden in 7 raised beds outside of our school, collaborating with community resources such as Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS), local nurseries, local florists, and the Idaho Botanical Gardens,to understand where food comes from and how it grows. We conducted experiments throughout the year, observed natural materials and occurrences within our environment around us. We invited experts into the classroom, and developed new possibilities based on the children's interests, questions and curiosities.
3: Although other classes were involved in gardening during the school year, this book documents the journey of two of those classes. Classroom One teachers were Bridgett Stiegemeier and Katy Cressy, and Classroom Two teachers were the team of Julie Armstrong and Tracy Harris. Photographer and educator, Anne Cirillo, came in and worked with us as an art specialist and documenter throughout the year.
4: We had several meetings over the course of July and August in preparation for our year-long inquiry project about gardens and the natural world. We began setting up field trips, speakers, and collecting materials. It was very important to us that the families of our new children knew about the project, could share their experience and expertise, and that they were involved with our work from the beginning. Home Visits precede every classroom year. During these visits teachers meet with each family to talk about curriculum and classroom focus. Teachers also ask questions to get to know the families and their backgrounds. This enables them to individualize for each student's needs and to work as a team with the family. We found that there was an interest in gardening with our families. | Summer
5: At the Home Visits, Bridgett gave families a hand out asking them to draw a picture of a garden with their child. On the first week of school, children brought the drawings back to school and shared what they grew in their gardens. Some of the refugee families reflected on the gardens they had grown in their home countries and the changes they had gone through coming to Boise. | Introducing the project at home visits
6: As school began we wanted the students to learn about plant growth and its many components, such as plant parts, vegetables vs. fruits, seed identification, etc. We especially focused on composting in the classroom. BUGS came and gave a presentation, we set up compost bins in and out of the class, and explored different types of soil with Charley- our bus driver/Master Gardener. When our classes visited the BUGS garden they picked crops, explored worm compost bins, identified seeds and plant parts, and learned what veggie and fruit plants look like. Since the weather was still nice, we needed to prep the raised beds so they would be ready to plant in the spring. The students spent time digging in the beds, pulling weeds and rocks, and tilled the hard, dry soil. Two of the beds had existing pumpkins and sunflowers that had been planted by a class the year before. The students were able to see and investigate the plants and harvest the sunflower heads and pumpkins to use in the classrooms. This helped them have a vision of what the garden could produce. | Fall
7: These students dug through the raised bed during outside time. They took out the rocks, weeds and plant debris. They collected what they found in a small bucket. They found that the ground was hard and dry, making it difficult to dig through the soil. The beds needed a lot of work.
8: Field trip to BUGS | The relationship with BUGS started in the fall, but continued throughout the year. Boise Urban Garden School was established in 2003 to provide opportunities for young teens to work and learn in a garden setting. Both classes took a field trip to their garden to see the crops that were ready to harvest. Melissa, a garden coordinator for BUGS, supported our garden plans by providing us with compost soil, seeds, and other materials. She came to the Container Gardening workshop that we held for families. She offered advice and helped families to plant seeds at the workshop. The families really enjoyed touring the garden and harvesting the crops.
9: In October, Becky, Susan and Melissa from BUGS came to our classrooms to share information about composting. They helped us create our own mini composting system- a bio-reactor..The children were able to be actively involved in the demonstration. Composting became a large part of the garden project. The students quickly found out which food waste could be composted and which was to be put in the trash. A bin was purchased to be placed outside the classroom and the students helped by adding green and brown materials in the bin. Because we are a USDA program we had to obtain permission to compost our food waste. The students were learning good stewardship of the earth that they live on. | Composting
10: The students in Bridgett and Katy's class began to get interested in bugs when they began digging out the rocks in the garden and seeing all the bugs in the compost. During the BUGS compost presentation they learned that worms eat the food scraps, break it down and that helps to create compost. They became fascinated by the worms and wanted to begin a bug investigation. It was a several month study observing bugs, reading books on bugs and doing many drawings of the ways bugs help the garden and compost. In the picture above children observed the worms, how they move and their features. They used blocks to measure how long each worm was and compared the worms. The teachers had hoped to create worm compost bins in the classroom but did not obtain funding until the end of the school year from an EnviroGuard grant from the City of Boise. This will be a project that next year's students will be able to experience. | Bugs and Bulbs
11: Bulbs were donated to the school by Melissa. The students planted them in the fall and were excited to see them as they bloomed in the spring. Before planting them, they made predictions and theory drawings on what the bulbs would look like when they bloomed, and how flowers develop from bulbs. It also taught the students patience as they discovered that growing seasons differ in time for different types of seeds and bulbs.
12: In the winter, although the focus in the classrooms changed in relation to the garden, we continued to learn about the life within it. Bridgett's class continued their in-depth study of bugs. They created books about them, learning the process of developing a story. Julie's class planted "Potato Joe", after reading the book by that name. It is a counting/rhyming book by Keith Baker. Potato Joe quickly became a part of the classroom community. The class was concerned about his care and learned that plants need appropriate living space just like people do. Joe needed to be transplanted twice from the pot that he started in. The students also planted an avocado and lemon seeds, forced bulbs, and grew herb terrariums. Plant growth was incorporated into class activities as they planted wheat when we read "The Little Red Hen" and planted popcorn after using s hot air popcorn popper to make a snack, | Winter
13: Both classes invited Elizabeth from the Idaho Botanical Gardens to do a presentation about insects in the garden. It was part of the Garden on the Road series. They loved seeing the bugs up close and personal. | In March we held a Container Gardening workshop for the families. After a short presentation by a Head Start parent who loves to garden, each family was able to plant seeds in containers to take home. | In-class workshops for children and families
14: An opportunity to create art pieces for our agency's 25 year anniversary brought us to explore a new art form. We made Batiks, using the animals and bugs that each class was so interested in. Batik is an art form that originated in Indonesia. Tracy had learned this technique in an art class at BSU. This introduction to a new medium for the classrooms allowed us to explore natural dyes from fruits and vegetables that would eventually inspire our culminating project for this study. There were many steps to this process including- drawing rough and final drafts, wax resist techniques, filling in the drawings with fabric paint, working with fabric and creating a multi-step art piece. Some of the steps in the process required adult help, but the children were very invested in the entire process. | Head Start's Anniversary
15: The students planted seeds for seedlings to be transplanted in the raised beds later in the spring. They also planted herb and tomato terrariums to take home. | Indoor preparation for the garden
16: Our classes participated in seed explorations, such as "What seeds do we eat?" They tasted popcorn, coconut,sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. The children sorted pictures from seed catalogs and classified real seeds. They used the bigger seeds to make collages on terra cotta pots. The book "Seeds, Seeds, Seeds" by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace was a springboard for activities that students did for the Week of the Young Child. They made grass heads and seed sorting plates. They created seed collages on frames to showcase the photos of flowers the children took on our visit to Edward's Greenhouse. We planted cold crops in the beds- lettuce, radishes, spinach, peas, and broccoli. Some of these were started as seedlings in the classroom. | Spring
17: The children brought clipboards with check-off lists on field trips. | The Idaho Botanical Garden's "Ready, Set, Grow" program. | They had to find specific garden supplies at Edward's Greenhouse. | The children learned about plant parts and insects in the garden. | Field Trips in our community | Edward's Greenhouse
18: Progress in the Garden | Although Boise had a unexpectedly cold and wet spring, the warmer weather brought us all out to our garden. We saw the tulips and daffodils we planted in the fall emerge and bloom,and watched as our plants began to sprout. The children planted a variety of seeds and seedlings in the beds. It was important for them to be able to harvest veggies by the end of the school year, which they were able to do from the cold crop bed. The other beds included an herb bed, a bed for strawberries and raspberries, a bed for tomatoes and peppers, a bed for gourds, summer squash, sunflowers and zucchini, a bed for carrots, beans and pumpkins, and a butterfly garden.
19: Julie and Brenda Whipps' classes raised caterpillars. The children observed their growth and learned about their life cycle. There were opportunities to do artwork reflecting their learning and to read lots of books about butterflies. Edward's Greenhouse donated the flowers and bushes that were needed to create a butterfly garden in one of the beds. It was quite exciting when the Painted Lady butterflies were released into our garden. The children watched for them to return over the days that followed their release, but they never saw them again.
20: Friends of Children and Families Head Start celebrates the Week of the Young Child every year. Our center decided to do a Garden Show theme for our community event. All of the classes participated by creating art pieces or growing plants as well as some parents bringing in their crafts and cooking projects to display. There were resources displayed about gardening, as well as handouts to take home. There were three Make-and-Take activities for the children to do with their parents. Visitors who attended the Garden Show were invited to tour the garden so they could see all the hard work and progress the children were making in the garden. | The Week of the Young Child
22: Closure would be an important part of this project, because although the garden would continue to grow throughout the summer, and some of the children and families would return and volunteer to help, many would leave school on the last day and not return to the garden at school. We decided that it would be important for the children to have a way to express their learning, ideas, imagination and work from the year. Because we had done individual batik's earlier in the spring, this seemed like a good medium to bring together their ideas for collaborative pieces. As teachers we met, and decided that Julie's class, which had concentrated more on the scientific aspects of the garden - would create a large piece, and Bridgett's class, which fused their love of books and fiction with their interest in the workings of the garden would create a hanging book of sorts - four small illustrations of a story. The process, which took place over three weeks was amazing. The children lent their voice, skills, ideas and hard work in various ways. | The Culminating Project | Here, Lin studied a dead wasp before he drew it. He noticed the stripes and looked for the stinger. He counted the wings and legs. We asked him how many body parts there were and if he could see eyes and a mouth. He noticed more and more as we talked and then began drawing.
23: In late spring, the children had become very interested in bugs. The worms, a part of the composting, had always been fascinating to the children and as the weather warmed, they were discovering more outside. We brought bugs into the classroom for the children to study. We read books and talked about their possible role in the garden. The children drew pictures of the creatures, incorporating their knowledge of the garden habitat. This kind of close observational drawing allowed the children to really examine the creatures, to watch them move, notice detail and share their discoveries in the classroom. As their drawings evolved, many of them going through several drafts, children and teachers brought in plants and flowers to look at more closely as well and incorporate them into their drawings. The children shared their pictures with each other and their teachers - and in most cases we wrote down what they shared.
24: Sharing their perspective in a group setting was essential. It gave the children a voice about their own work and ideas and allowed their individual concepts to become communal ideas. In fact, in some cases, children started individual pictures, and then would end up adding to someone else's piece. Raylee and Itzel both felt the needed to add a bug or flower to another student's garden picture, and the other kids seemed fine with this. Their ideas really seemed to be merging. Even individual drawings seemed to be influenced by another child's ideas. For example, after Carter finished drawing snails on his garden drawing, Cole came over. Carter was able to show him how he had figured out how to draw the swirling shell of the Snail, and this transfered directly to Cole's own work. Below is Carter's garden drawing. | Sharing and making decisions
25: In Julie's class, once all the children had completed individual drawings and shared their ideas we sat down with a group of interested students to pick aspects of the drawings to include on a larger classroom piece. The children were excited about not only their work, but their classmates work as well. They picked out many items. At one point, in Julie's class they were trying to decide which caterpillar to include, and just decided to pick two. | In Bridgett's class the process was a bit different as we were creating a story. This was a bit hard at first, as they were using the individual drawings as a prompt, and working to create a collaborative piece. Here, the story would come first and then the children would create pictures to illustrate the story. The process of creating the story was harder than we thought it would be. As most of their stories had been individual and had been created one on one with the teacher, the group process of collaborating to create the story was slow going. The children were very attached to the bugs we had studied - they had named them and created ideas about their lives. These easily became the characters in the story. They decided it would be a school, and then began to describe what kind of things would happen to the bugs. The story was actually finally completed as they laid out the pictures on the individual canvases. Above, children in Julie's class use the pictures they have picked to layout their mural. A group of 4 children worked together stating their opinions, arguing and finally deciding where everything should go. It was a similar process in Bridgett's class, but children had to deal with the text that would accompany the pictures and leave room for the words that would be added on later.
27: The children were eager to paint the batik's. As they had a fair amount of experience with detailed painting at this point, the process was both fun and serious for them. The pictures show their skill in using the paintbrushes - holding them at nearly a right angle to the piece, using just the tip of the brush and choosing the correct size of brush for their work. We had a few mishaps - spills, color bleeds - but that is part of working with fabric and paint together. Overall, we were amazed at the great care they took. When the pieces were together, some children were very interested in coloring their own work, but many took on what ever was available, or their favorite aspects of the larger work. Children with exceptional small motor skills were able to do some of the very fine detail work as seen in the above picture where Hadley works on the centipede's legs.
28: Teachers covered all of the images with wax so that the background could be dyed. The background was made by heating up water and adding blueberries and blackberries. It cooked in a pot for about 30 minutes and then was poured into a tray through cheesecloth. The fabric then sat in the dye for about 30 minutes-1 hour, then laid out to dry for a day. Finally, they were attached to the canvas. The final pieces are breathtaking. There are some schools of thought that discourage the idea of any kind of "product" in early childhood education. But, this kind of culminating project represents a community of learners coming together to create something bigger and more amazing than any one could have done individually. It represents the talents, skills and ideas of individuals that are shaped and made more complete through a sharing of ideas. They are lovely pieces made more interesting and powerful with the knowledge of the work, play, ideas, explorations and experiments that preceded them and made them possible. They are unique to these two groups of children - and although any class could create a batik - only these classes could have created these - and impart the meaning behind them. The piece on the right was made by Julie and Tracy's class. It is 36"x48". The pieces on the following two page spread was created by Bridgett's class. Each piece is a page of their story. Each canvas is 12"x"24". They are batik on muslin using fabric paint for the images and hand pressed blueberry and blackberry juice for the background. The pieces are mounted on pre-stretched canvas. The artwork speaks for itself. Thanks to the artists/gardeners of Madison Head Start: Room 1 Bridgett and Katy's class: Alfredo, Asa, Bailey, Colin, Destinie, Ehku, Jacob, Kristen, Lin, Mary, Mia, Noemy, Sarah, Surendra, Tiffany, Trevor, Xavier and Vanessa. Room 2 Julie and Tracy's class: Alondra, Baylee, Carter, Christopher, Cole, Daniel, Diego, Fatima, Hadley, Hitzel, Kimberly, Leo, Rae, Rayly, Ryely, and Tyler. | The final products
32: This project would not have been possible without the help of many community members. We are grateful to Edward's Greenhouse for their donations and for the meaningful field trip. North End Organic Nursery donated soil and seeds for our container workshop, and Capital High School's kitchen staff saved their plastic food buckets for families to plant in. Melissa Frazier's help and donations were invaluable. She donated compost, seeds and bulbs, and ranch wire for our garden area. She facilitated an amazing field trip to the BUGS garden and came in to help with the compost presentation. She supported families as they planted at the container workshop and checked in with us throughout the year to see how she could help us. She also wrote an article about our project, which was fun to be able to share with others what we are doing. It can be read in the April 13, 2011 edition of Northwest Food News (website). We also had support from FOCAF classroom parents who donated materials and helped work in the garden. Bob, Madison's janitor extraordinaire, helped us every step of the way to ensure that we were successful. We received a $25 gift card donation from Home Depot, and an EnviroGuard grant from the City of Boise to help us buy materials. It takes a community to raise a garden.