Last week I had the privilege of being a parent helper in my son’s grade 4 class. He is part of a unique program that has three different grades in one classroom with a teacher and two parent helpers to teach each grade. The teacher makes the lesson plans for the day and the parent helper has the opportunity to teach it to their child’s class. The first thing on our lesson plan last week was to replant some seedlings in their school’s garden room and care for their tower gardens. I had no idea what was involved in this but the teacher assured me that the students would know what to do. They were so excited to accomplish these tasks and explain them to me along the way. They showed me, with pride, their beans, carrots, beets, potatoes, numerous herbs and greens. They explained to me that we had to replant some swiss chard, and lettuces as they had used most of those greens last week in their smoothies that they made at school. After replanting and watering the swiss chard and lettuce seedlings they moved on to the tower gardens. Carefully they filled the bottom of the tower garden with water and added two different types of fertilizer. Taking a water sample in a test tube, they used a ph tester to make sure that the ph was right for the plants. One student begged to eat some salad greens while the watering was going on because, in his words, “It is so delicious!”.
Childhood obesity and inactivity is of great concern to most parents and other people working with children in Canada. And because we live in a climate that does not allow outdoor gardening all year round, the indoor tower gardening is giving these children the chance to have experiences that is helping them develop healthier eating habits. As the plants grow, the anticipation of tasting the vegetables and fruit also grows. It is encouraging to see them excited about trying beets, spinach and other vegetables that they may otherwise refuse to try because they grew them themselves. They also are learning about which nutrients are present in each plant and how they are useful in a healthy diet for nourishing our bodies. The process of growth in the plants, the science of the light and soil needed, how the fertilizer aids growth and the need for the correct ph balance is much more interesting when they are involved in these processes hands on. Growing the food is giving them a physical and emotional connection to their food that is impacting them in a very positive way. I was thrilled to be part of this learning opportunity that these children have and I hope that it will be available to many more.