This past fall we featured NC State’s Natural Learning Initiative and its connection with Durham Early Head Start (EHS) classrooms on the Partnership blog as a way of highlighting outdoor learning environments in the early childhood setting. Since the introduction of those newly renovated outdoor learning environments to the centers in Durham, site directors and teachers have been hard at work maintaining the grounds and incorporating the outdoors in their curriculum.
To build upon their expertise, EHS teachers and directors recently participated in a "Preschool Garden Train the Trainer" workshop offered through the NC Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program. Consumer Horticulture Agent Michelle Wallace began the training with some basic tips for garden management, including how many gallons of water newly planted trees need, how to use a rain gauge with young children, what type of mulch is best for playgrounds, why perennials are so appealing to young learners, and how to manage weeds in the lawn. She helped teachers build a Garden Exploration Tool Kit and guided the early educators through a series of hands-on activities perfect for very young minds. Activities listed below:
Items required: Basil seeds, Yarn (cut for necklaces), Cotton balls, 1"x3" ziploc bags
Note: The germination bags, once assembled, are to be worn as necklaces because the warmth of the body naturally helps the basil seeds grow.
Items required: 19.5" in diameter commercial coffee filters, Masking tape, Magic markers
Note: Allow the children to use the markers to design their own garden hat.
Sammy Soil Heads
Items required: Knee highs, Potting soil, Rye seed, Rubber bands, Plastic cups
Note: This is like constructing your own Chia pet, the "hair" of which should grow within a week. Other seeds can be used, but rye seeds make great "hair." Take photos throughout the process and use to show time-lapse progress.
Items required: Clear plastic containers with lids (like a mayonnaise jar), Pea gravel (for drainage), Potting soil, Shells/Glass Beads (for decoration), Small ground cover plants such as moss or sapling pines
Note: A terrarium is simply a contained environment. With just the right amount of water in this garden terrarium and with the lid kept closed, children will be able to see the water cycle.
Items required: "Diary of a Worm" (literature), Plastic opaque container with air holes on top, Shredded newspaper, Leaves, Cup of soil from the garden, Red wiggler worms, Vegetable scraps, Plastic bucket with water
Note: This is not for the faint of heart, but children seem to love seeing the wiggly creatures in action.
Durham EHS is a free, comprehensive child development and family support program for low-income families with children aged birth to three years old and to pregnant women. It is a collaboration between Durham’s Partnership for Children, Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project and Healthy Families Durham.