“I truly believe that you can’t appreciate the earth unless you put your hands in it, and gardening is a natural way for children to have an immersive learning experience.”
Using the garden as her teaching tool, Ms. Jackie is planting the seeds of math and science excellence within her students by building an experience rich in discovery, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
“My students are always excited to learn about the garden! It’s one of their favorite topics and one of the best ways to get them involved in our curriculum.”
Ms. Jackie is a Private Kindergarten teacher at Childtime of Brea in Southern California. She’s been part of the Learning Care Group family for the past nine years and has worked with a variety of age groups throughout her career—from Pre-K to School Age. Gardening has always been one of her favorite creative activities and interactive lessons to share because it grows their minds too.
“We had an awesome geometry lesson as we talked about shapes and vertices, which lined up perfectly with our math unit about squares and rectangles! (And because) the area in our yard that provided the most sun was not flat, (we had a) wonderful discussion about slope and level. We even build a 3D classroom model of our garden box to brainstorm ideas. After much hands-on trial and error, we concluded that the best thing to do was to raise one side.”
Ms. Jackie says her gardening lessons are always a huge hit and something she recommends to all her peers. She recently created a successful hydroponic garden with a Pre-Kindergarten class of hers too. This method would work well for teachers in other locations where the climate may be a bigger factor in determining the gardening season.
“We grew many root vegetables all indoors and in water. We had a wonderful time watching the plants grow and figuring out a watering system.”
Ms. Jackie says adults can often take simple processes for granted, so to see the world through the wonder in a child’s eyes is rewarding. Children become exhilarated when they watch seeds sprouting and growing. It often sparks organic conversations and new experiments.
“One year with my Pre-K students, we started to talk about dirt. This topic transitioned us into a deeper conversation about what could actually grow in dirt. So, to find out, we decided to plant a rock, a shoe, seeds, and beans.”
Ms. Jackie says the children were terribly disappointed to find out they couldn’t grow a shoe tree! Her ability to think outside the box recently led to a special garden with an artistic, upcycled flair. The Unusual Garden, as it was called, began inside an old tire. She then asked families to donate any items that could be used as a planter. She received old shoes, broken cups, toys—you name it! Each day when the children played outside, they admired their Unusual Garden and the progress their plants were making.
“Research tells us that the more senses we use while we learn the longer, we will retain the information, and the more meaningful it will be to us. Gardening, even in the smallest form, utilizes all our senses and engages learners at every level. It is a must in any classroom!”