Summer classes have officially ended, and our garden educators spent 6 weeks teaching students from kindergarten through 6th grade about gardening and cooking skills. It was fun, challenging, and therapeutic. In the beginning, “several students didn’t show interest in gardening activities” said Oliv, our garden educator at Rosa Parks Elementary. However, towards the last few weeks of garden classes, she noticed how a student who didn’t initially enjoy gardening began to ask more questions; she even saw them excited about getting their hands in the dirt and looking for worms. Oliv said that “discovering what kids value and what they find worthy of their time and attention” helped her understand how to ensure every student has a positive, memorable experience in nature.
For our kinder through 2nd-grade students, we delivered a 5-sense exploration program in the garden. Each day consisted of discovering a different sense. For example, for touch, our students found contrasting textures when making seed necklaces. When learning about sound, students were asked to listen to sounds made by animals and repeat them in a “sound safari.” Students used their sense of smell to determine the difference between several herbs, and then used them to make tea. They used the sight sense to observe the flowers in the gardens. Finally, they used their sense of taste to make pesto using basil from the garden. These examples can be modified by using what is around your home or garden. If you do not have access to a garden at home, we recommend visiting your local park or gardens. SF Park and Rec has a list of many parks to choose from, or you can look up your city’s Park and Recreation website to find a garden in your area.
Moving on to our 3rd and 4th-grade students, they spent a few weeks on a project called the Three Sisters Garden. The three sisters are referred to as the corn, beans, and squash planted. This specific tradition has been used for centuries by Native American communities. Melissa Kruse-Peeples’ article How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden offers in-depth information and tips for planting, suggested layouts, and varieties that work well when planted together. Students built mounds, amended the soil, and grew corn, beans, and squash. Although these specific plants are usually planted during warmer seasons, the above article suggests alternatives.
Our last group of students, who were 5th and 6th graders, participated in cooking classes. They used produce that was grown in our gardens to create recipes. If you don’t have access to a garden at home, we recommend visiting your local farmers market to buy locally grown produce in season. Students made these fantastic and healthy recipes: salsas, fruit salads, smoothies, and salad dressing. For more recipe ideas, we recommend downloading our CommunityGrows Activity Book for a minimum donation of $7. This pdf includes kid-friendly recipes and coloring pages.
Kruse-Peeples, Melissa. “How to Grow A Three Sisters Garden.” Native, Native-Seeds-Search, 27 May 2016, https://www.nativeseeds.org/blogs/blog-news/how-to-grow-a-three-sisters-garden.