No one should be surprised that the first week of spring the Edible Schoolyard team is slammed with programs and field trips! With groups the sizes of 60+ we run our “Urban Farmer” trip two times. Today we ran the program before and after lunch. During the after lunch group we expect distraction and hyperactivity. Today Edible Schoolyard teachers had our magic tools of “extra-excited tone” and “really, really seriously fun ideas” ready to help them focus, but we didn’t need them! One thing that tends to be true about working with kids at the Children’s Museum is whatever you think is going to happen will not happen. Often times, something better, more magical, more creative and more appropriate for kids’ needs happens.
To begin the program the teachers ask, “Why do you think this garden is here?” to get them to think about where they are. The answers that came back, at 12:30 in the heat of the day were perfect: “To learn about plants!”, “To learn how to grow food”, “Because it is beautiful”, “To learn how to recycle”, “To taste things”, “To care for animals”. All the answers were simple, true, and the cornerstones of our teaching.
Students are taken through the garden in small groups, using their five senses and focus on the needs of plants and animals… humans included! In the sensory garden they smell the flowers: the blooming tulips, the open poppies, and the flowering rosemary. Students are only instructed to use their nose in this area. This gives them to opportunity to have the independence to smell what they want and to tell each other which things smell good. Using our sense of touch, we dig through compost, touch the carpet liner in the pond, and pet the chickens, noticing the way each of these substances feel. Students use their sense of vision at each station, observing closely the connections between things. Everyone’s favorite sense to use in the garden is taste. We are currently tasting French Sorrel that makes their mouths pucker and broccoli flowers. An important aspect of our program is hearing the cars go by. We discuss the proximity the garden is to the road and why we have a farm in the city. “Do people who live that way need food?” the teacher asks pointing East. “How about that way?” she asks pointing North. The conclusion is that everyone needs food and that it makes sense to be close to the food that you eat!
We have a great bunch of volunteers and staff who are helping to lead groups this spring and we are so thankful to all the new and returning schools who let us have a blast on these beautiful mornings!