Growing Food with Kids!
by Farmer Jen Mujica
Searching for a fun education activity for children? Grow a garden! The garden is a laboratory of lessons about science, food, nutrition, biology and community. Children discover “rollie pollies” walking along the soil, a hummingbird buzzing up to strawberry blossoms and holes in the broccoli leaves. Harvest time means discovering handfuls of carrots under the soil! A balance of structure and exploration fosters the most important growth in the garden — the growing minds of children.
We live in the Mojave Desert where the urban neighborhoods of Las Vegas are dry, desert landscapes. Bugs, worms and other fun critters that live in organic gardens are a brand new experience for the children. Let them EXPLORE!
Encourage them to touch, feel, smell and experience the garden. Remember if a plant is broken…the miracle is that it will grow back! If a plant accidently gets pulled out of the garden, this is a learning opportunity. Take the plant and show the child the plant’s roots. Explain how the roots allow the plant to absorb water and nutrients (like their daily vitamins). Have the child dig a new hole, and replant it, explaining that a plant can “take root” again in a new place in the garden.
The greatest learning moments are often in the self directed explorations of each child. As Ben Franklin so wisely said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn.” These words ring true with children learning to grow food in a garden!
When giving children transplants to plant on their own, make “X” ‘s in the garden bed to show where a transplant will be planted. This gives students freedom to work independently but still guarantees the plants are placed in rows near the water lines and are spaced for maximum growth.
Give younger children large seeds like beans, squash, watermelon, sunflower seeds or beets. The older children can handle the tiny seeds (basil, oregano, onions, etc.). Not only does this become easier for the children, but it’s a lot more FUN when they can more easily manage their seeds.
(The above article is an excerpt from my book, “The New Generation of Farmers: How To Create a Vital & Educational School Garden Program.” Available in September 2017!)