KAPA‘A — “We love green beans!” the children said. Was it because the beans were freshly picked from the children’s garden at All Saints Preschool?
Fifty children, ages 3 to 5, in four classes have been participating in gardening at the preschool in downtown Kapa‘a since the fall of 2009. This is one of the school gardens where Kaua‘i Master Gardeners volunteered to help children learn about growing plants and growing their own vegetables.
The children have a gardening class once a week where they have learned about soil, insects, planting, composting, and harvesting their own vegetables. The children grew lettuce, radishes, beets, carrots, herbs, and Swiss chard in the winter garden planter boxes. This spring the garden has green beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and taro. During the week, the 4 classes help with watering the garden and check on the progress of the plants.
The class is really a “hands-on” experience. Digging in the soil, finding worms, bugs, spiders, and snails are the most popular activities. The children also enjoy looking for strawberries and smelling the mint and herbs.
“The children loved it all”, said Wendy Hustad, co-director of All Saints Preschool. “It was such a good learning experience — to be able to see the evolution of the flowers and vegetables from planting the seeds to harvesting something they could take home — and the children understanding that the work they put into their garden helped create the end result”.
Wendy added that, “Some of the children who fancied themselves ‘no vegetable eaters’ left that thinking behind when it came to taste the herbs, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, etc. that they had grown!” The vegetables that were harvested in the morning were prepared for the children’s afternoon snack.
Monarch butterflies fly among the sun flowers, nasturtiums and marigolds. They also contribute to the gardening experience by making their chrysalis in the garden area where the children can watch the metamorphosis occur. In addition to seeing butterflies in the garden, children made their own butterflies from recycled material and learned how bees collect nectar and pollen from flowers.
The teachers hope that the garden can be started up again when the fall school season begins. When asked if the children benefited from participating in the garden, Ms. Marlene, teacher of the 4- and 5-year-olds “Pueo” class, commented, “Yes, Yes, Yes! It was very hands on and the classroom activities were very fun and educational.”
• Valli Sendan is a Kaua‘i Master Gardener volunteer and Richard Ebesu is the Kaua‘i Master Gardener program coordinator with the UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension Service. For more information on Master Gardeners in the schools, call Richard at 274-3475.