On Thursday 12th March, we were lucky enough to have Natasha (Tash) from The Sage Garden visit us for our seasonal gardening incursion.
Tash lives and breathes her philosophy of teaching children to embrace, respect and love the natural world. After a lengthy dedication to studying gardening and teaching (she holds an Advanced Diploma in Rudolph Steiner Education, as well as a Bachelor of Education and Diploma in Horticulture), Tash worked as a Garden Specialist for the highly regarded Stephanie Alexander Foundation (you may have seen several of these gardens at schools and shopping centre). Through her work with The Sage Garden, Tash has built relationships with early learning centres, schools, councils and event companies. Choklits are lucky enough to be included in the thousands of Victorian children that Tash has encouraged to feel a sense of wonder through gardening.
At the beginning of Autumn and Spring, Tash visits us with seedlings and seeds ready for little hands to tend to. The children from the Toddler, Pre-Kinder and Kinder rooms take an active role in planting seasonal veggies in our veggie garden, as well as a special seed to take home and grow.
Tash begins her sessions by inviting the children for a story and discussion. The book helps to explore known learning (like seeds need water and sun to grow) as well as new concepts (like the different fruit and vegetables that grow and the role of worms in helping them).
Together, the group discussed what they were going to do next. Tash shows them how to hold the seedlings, cupping the roots in both hands. After moving to the veggie patch, the children each have the opportunity to plant a seedling in the dirt, followed by tucking the mulch over the seedling like a blanket and wishing it “Good luck!” to grow big and strong. In this visit, we planted cabbage, beetroot, lettuce and some amazing tri-coloured cauliflower (how exciting will this be to watch grow and then devour?!).
The children then move to the next activity, planting a bean to take home. While the others decorate the bag to take their seedling home in, each child has a turn to plant a bean. Tash uses biodegradable pots, which can be planted straight into the ground with no waste byproducts, aligning with Choklits’ endeavours to maintain sustainable practices. The children relish in the opportunity to once again get their hands buried in dirt, scooping the potting mix into their pot before poking a little hole for their bean to rest in.
In the days and weeks to follow, the children enjoy giving the garden bed a big drink of water to help establish the plants.
“It is our aim to provide education that reaches the child’s body, mind and soul” – Tash, The Sage Garden
This fantastic opportunity to get involved in growing veggies in our Choklits veggie patch is rich in learning. Les Vygotsky (a renowned psychologist in education) introduced the numerous benefits of using play-based learning to expand on children’s social and educational learning. Gardening is the epitome of Vygotsky’s theories, promoting confidence, independence, resilience and the ability to problem solve.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the take-away lessons that the day (and on-going experiences) provide:
- Personal attributes: the first of these, is responsibility. Giving the children opportunities as high-achievers is woven into the Choklits philosophy. Roles that aren’t necessarily viewed as ones for young children seem to add an extra element of pride and ownership. If you’ve ever seen you child involved in “grown-up’ activities, you’ll know what I mean when I say you can practically see their chest puff with pride. This is what we saw during the gardening experience, with highly engaged and attentive faces drinking the words of Tash.
- This responsibility leads to the pride and confidence instilled by having an active role in growing veggies for Helen to add to our meals. Imagine, as a 3 year old, knowing that you helped create the food on your plate at lunch time!
- Lastly, the resilience of being involved growing plants. From the plants that don’t flourish (despite the loving care shown to them….and the odd bucket of sand!), to getting your hands dirty, there are many chances to support each child’s ability to cope with a range of emotions that go hand-in-hand with growing plants. Dirty hands aren’t everyone’s thing, but by joining in with educators to support them, the children learn that hands can be washed, clothes can be cleaned, and not everything grows the way we want it to.
- Appreciation and understanding of good food and nutrition. Choklits is abundant with practices and every day habits that help to build on the children’s own sense of well-being. Our lovingly crafted meals from Helen’s kitchen, the routines around sharing meals together, and the nutritional value of what goes into their tummies all contribute to the children’s health. Caring for our veggie garden adds to the children’s understanding of healthy foods and where it comes from by watching veggies grow from tiny seedlings.
- Hidden amongst the joy of planting in our garden, are opportunities for increasing the listening (receptive) skills of our little learners. To understand what to do and how to do it, the children need to tune in to Tash’s words and instructions. As a skilled teacher, Tash is able to deliver these steps both verbally and with physical demonstrations to support the children’s understanding in a way that makes sense to them. The break-down of each step appeals to the different styles of our individual learners – from the hands-on approach to the visual learners, each child is able to connect with the new information in a meaningful way.
“Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity” – Outcome 4: Early Learning Years Framework
- Enhancing the dispositions for learning as the children engage with the science concepts involved in gardening. From the introduction of the incursion, the children’s curiosity is sparked as they watch Tash prepare the materials about to be used (mulch, potting mix, seedlings). Throughout the experience, they are involved in working together (cooperation) to achieve a goal as a group. Holding a seedling in their hands for planting is the best way of cementing their understanding of how living things begin and the care needed to help them thrive.
And that about sums up our aim at Choklits; caring for littlest learners in a way that supports them to grow and thrive.
Find out more about Tash’s amazing work with The Sage Garden here.
Useful tips on how to involve your child in the amazing learning opportunities from gardening here.
An article on what children gain in terms of learning from being involved in gardening here.
Choklits blog post authored by Dee Wasserfall, Choklits Child Care Kindergarten Educator.
Choklits Child Care, 319 Canterbury Road, Ringwood (0pposite the Ringwood Golf Course near the Canterbury Road Eastlink offramp).