This Year-Round School Gardening Program Should Exist EVERYWHERE!

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Couple of years ago, at our local school, the children happily grew, harvested and, of course ate two pounds giant carrot.

The amazing gardening program at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod comes a long way from then today. Now, we have a wonderful unheated hoop house and awesome program where middle school gardeners lead younger grader starting from first till fifth graders as they teach them how to build soil, transplant, plant, water, tend and how to harvest food year round. Our harvests finish as amazing meals served at lunch prepared by our school chef.  During the summer the community takes care for the garden. Every week we have Family Gardening sessions that are organized by grade level where families actually share a pot luck meal and then they all work together in our garden in an appropriate time of the evening.

The heart of our gardening program is a hoop house from 24 by 48 feet. This is a modern indoor gardening classroom that shines with garden life. Since it is unheated, we started to choose different winter crops such as spinach, kale and carrots, which grow in the time when the days are slightly warm and the nights are very cold.

Our spring hoop house also brings tasty fruits and vegetables such as early strawberries, lots of chives, bushels of spinach and baby kale, and parsley and of course snow peas.  One of the most important things is that the plastic roof is always removed for the summer months so we actually avoid overheating.

Many greenhouse farmers help us by covering most of the indoor space with beautiful plants.  We take care for kids as well as plants, so just a half the garden space in the greenhouse is covered with growing beds. We also take care to have a space to congregate at the end. The children had a brilliant idea to use sand rather than gravel between the beds and this protects out garden double than before.

Every student in the school spends some time to growing lunch and each year the third graders are our special weekly farmers.

Our aim is that children from our school have engagement into all aspects of gardening. Our local newspaper made a perfect video about our 2 pound giant carrot where you can see their tremendous enthusiasm.

Next week my class is going to study botany and growth of seeds. That’s why I gave them permanent markers so they could write their first names and surnames on the tubs. They were so happy, so they also gave each seed a name: Zeus, Poseidon, Heidi!  Now, every morning, I can hear them saying that one of their beans has sprouted! Heidi has a root! They are so happy, that they learn specific term and what they mean for example monocotyledons and dicotyledons. But, according to me, even more important is that they have the opportunity to celebrate life. This parts of the lessons doesn’t even need to be taught. It just rises up from within them, and goes naturally as the rising of the sun.

Why do we teach them gardening? Is it good for children meaning they could make good food choices? Yes. Is it about learning botany? Yes. Is it to bring healthy exercise during the school day? Yes.  Is it to give children a clear understanding of the work behind the food? Is it about teaching them how to grow their own food?  Yes. But, most of all, let’s grow with children with natural enthusiasm for life.

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