Monday, February 8, 2010

"these kids today they're swimming in computer land"

the food: straight from the dirt
the song: "You Kids Don't Know" Orange Mothers (Ethan Azarian)

Saturday I attended a fantastic training on school gardens, hosted by the Austin School Garden Network.  It was an extremely encouraging day and I left feeling proud of my fair city for having so many organizations coming together that really get it. Not to mention the attendees- educators, parents, and school volunteers- that devoted their entire Saturday (the first sunny day we've had in a week!) to learn how we can teach our children possibly the most important thing we can teach them. It gives me hope we are moving in the right direction.

 Beginnings of our daycare garden bed, March 2009

In real life, I'm the director of a small daycare for infants and toddlers at an elementary school in Austin. Last year after attending a teaching the garden training, we adopted two 4x4 raised beds to plant with our kids. We planted lettuce, squash, tomatoes, and herbs- all of which I got for free from the Sustainable Food Center (really) and a like-minded parent.

Our basil flourished, even after a summer away, October 2009.

I'll never forget the day I came back from a meeting to see all 8 toddlers sitting around the table sharing a salad from our garden with my coteacher. I was so proud to see them enthusiastically eating lettuce, raw basil, and tiny tomatoes. Given the opportunity, toddlers can be quite adventurous eaters.  Up until this last freeze we still had lots of basil, and used it earlier this year to make very potent fresh pesto. Our campus has a huge organic garden maintained by the PTA, and we harvested bag fulls of banana peppers at the beginning of the year. It sounds impossible that two year olds would eat a pepper straight off the vine, but I've seen it first hand. It just goes to show the impact it makes when children see where their food comes from.  

Making time to enjoy greenery around our campus, October 2009.

I'm not going to's been a tough semester for our little daycare. We have a young crowd this year (our oldest just turned 3) which means there's a lot of physical caregiving in our day. We've also been facing some changes for next year, which has caused stress among the staff and parents.  For whatever reason, we missed the fall planting season. But this training was just what I needed to get re-motivated. My coteachers even had the brilliant idea to expand our garden space to include a butterfly garden and path. I'm excited to share what I know and watch it take off in the hands of enthusiastic and adventurous toddlers.


P.S. Along with the awesome organizers of the Greening Our Schools Conference, big props go to El Milagro, Thundercloud, Whole Foods, and Thunderbird Coffee for feeding us during the training. I always concentrate better on a full stomach, don't you?

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