I visited Debra at Larchmont Temple the end of November to learn more about her school’s outdoor garden and how she and the staff were connecting what was taking place outside with the learning that was slowly moving indoors for the colder months. Fast forward a few months, I asked Debra how her winter experiment was going. (SC)
The garden at our nursery school is 5 years old. Initially, it began as a 14×14 plot of land and over the course of 5 years has evolved! We now have 5 raised, organic beds and grow pole beans, peas, various species of tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, lettuces, herbs zucchini, squash and pumpkins. Each summer, when we harvest our vegetables, we use some for cooking at camp and donate most of what we harvest to the local community food pantry for families in need of fresh produce. The children help take care of the garden and also do all of the harvesting!
This year, we planted a winter crop for the first time. Our 4 year old students planted Kale, Spinach, Swiss chard and Lettuce. None of us really knew if these vegetables would grow, and together we generated questions: Will our winter plants grow? Does kale taste as good as chocolate? How will we use our vegetables? If it snows will we need to water our plants? How big will our plants become?
This has been an interesting winter! It was so warm a few weeks ago that our tulip bulbs started to sprout, and our winter crop does seem to be growing, though it is still not ready to harvest. We are curious to see what is happening underneath all of the snow that just fell this past weekend. This snow has led us to more questions: Are our vegetables still growing under there?
Before the end of winter, we will either harvest the winter veggies and use them in our 4s cooking class, or purchase the same kind of vegetables that we tried to grow, learn about them, and incorporate the store bought vegetables into our cooking curriculum. As a school, we have learned that our working garden is a magical place where we can hypothesize, experiment, explore, learn and give back to our community!
Debra Frankel is the Director of the Early Childhood Program at Larchmont Temple, Larchmont, NY