Fall Gardening: Growing Plants and Growing Minds
Having lived in Connecticut for thirty years, I am accustomed to having the gardening season wind down at the end of September. We were members of a farm co-op and we enjoyed a wide variety of fresh vegetables from May through September, but soon after that, we were back to relying on grocery store produce for the next seven months.
The best thing about the co-op was that I could take my son out there and he could experience a real “farm” and gain an appreciation for where our food came from. We even learned about crop rotation from year to year and the important role bees play in the farming process.
Gardening was an important part of the curriculum at my previous schools - it provides such rich opportunities for hands-on learning and cross-curricular connections. At this time of year in the Northeast, we used to work on cleaning out the garden areas and “putting them to bed” for the winter. That would involve turning over the soil and covering it with a layer of leaves so they could decompose throughout the winter and enrich the soil with vital nutrients. In March, we would plant our seeds after the last frost and would watch closely for the new life to erupt out of the soil in the spring.
Here in South Carolina, I am delighted that there is actually a season for fall gardening. The milder temperatures at this time of year make perfect conditions for growing a variety of fall vegetables. Our kindergarten classes and some of our EC classes are taking full advantage of this opportunity and have planted some fall gardens here on campus.
The Kindergarten has raised boxes just outside our new health office where they are growing Romaine lettuce, carrots, and radishes as food for their Kindergarten bunny rabbit. The EC3s have planted an assortment of vegetables in the garden beds in the EC playground area. They are eagerly awaiting a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, carrots, squash, corn, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts.
I am excited that we have teachers who are embracing gardening as a theme in their curriculum at this time of year. It closely ties in with the cycle of learning we see in our students as well.
When the children returned to us in mid-August, we were ready. We had prepared fertile soil and immediately began planting, seed by seed, each day. It took a few weeks before we could truly see what was happening - that first bit of time when changes are happening underground creates such anticipation for the moment when the first sprouts emerge. That is where we are now with the children. The first sprouts of their learning and growth have started to appear and we are all so excited by their observable progress. Whether it is learning the alphabet, learning to read, or learning multiplication tables, their growth is sprouting forward now and it looks like we have the makings of a bumper crop! We will continue to nurture and tend to them throughout the year as they continue to grow and develop, eventually finishing the year as fully grown EC3s, kindergarteners, third graders, etc.