At Camelot Early Learning Centre, we are proud to share and celebrate our plant-growing program! The learning outcomes we have been focusing on improving are LO2.4 (Children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment) and LO3.2 (Children take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing).
We have managed to bring the vegetable garden up to the rooftop and bought some plants using money we raised from the community project. For this program, we are growing lettuce, carrot, cucumber, tomato, broccoli, and strawberries, all from seeds or young plants.
Our first step was to moisten the dirt in the garden. Then, some children helped dig holes with the shovel while others took the plants out of the pots and placed them carefully in their selected holes. After firming the soil around the plants, the children were taking turns to water them again with the watering cans. During the process, we had a close look at different roots, stems, leaves, and the white flowers on the strawberries. On average, it takes six to eight weeks to get the produce from tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries. The vegetable garden provides children with access to a range of natural materials in their learning environment and we find a way of enabling children to care for and learn from the land through this program.
For the indoor program, we are growing different herbs and spices from seeds, which include chives, basil, coriander, dill and rosemary. The individual seeding pots were provided for each child and placed in the glass tank for children to observe. Children are encouraged to water their little plants on a daily basis and look after others while they are away or absent. By the time we observed the first sprout, the plant observation book was introduced to children who are capable of writing and are transferring to primary school next year. Abundant support and scaffolding was offered for these children to record all the changes for their plants every week. Others who would like to be challenged were also given a shorter template to show their observation through drawing.
Different parts of the plant and their functions were explored and discussed during group times. Our kinder children enjoyed watching the video from Peekaboo Kidz, which is called “Parts of a Plant | The Dr. Binocs Show”. This video clearly explains the functions of every component of a plant from a scientific viewpoint using interactive animation. This video has become one of the most popular resources children ask for, so if you would like to view the link for yourself to play at home, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3St51F4kE8&t=3s
Another multimedia resource children love to watch is the Plants Song for Kids, which is more rhythmic and uses more real-life photos of different plants. Children love to move their bodies and sing along every time we play this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T10p473IlWo
The first learning activity for this topic was creating a plant with cardboard. The children have been showing an interest towards tracing their handprints during indoor free play. We turned this interest into an activity, and got the children to trace their hands on different coloured cardboard to create leaves, flowers and roots.
Most of the children have the ability to complete this task on their own, as they are familiar with cutting and pasting. The children are also very good at cutting along the lines - impressive!
The second learning activity was categorising vegetables and fruits according to the edible parts. We categorised the vegetables we grew together using the knowledge we gained from the videos, finding out that we eat the leaves of a lettuce, roots of a carrot, fruits of a cucumber, tomato and strawberry, and flowers of broccoli. And the stems?... we eat the stems of celery!
On the Wednesday, 6 November, we picked some fresh lettuce from the vegetable patch and made a salad for afternoon tea. The process was so much fun and we enjoyed the joy of harvest!
The learning didn't stop here! We extended the topic to “Living and Non-living”, which is an important concept for children to develop, understanding to respect and care for what is around them. The main objectives of these lessons were: 1. Develop criteria to decide if something is living or nonliving; 2. Classify things as living and nonliving, based on those criteria; 3. Recognize that living things grow, reproduce, and need food, air, and water.
When children were asked what a living thing is, they gave a specific example as an answer such as a puppy, an elephant and a bird, (rather than animals as a whole). After they were confident in sorting between living and non-living, we generalised that three three major living things were plants, animals, and humans (including children and grown-ups). All living creatures have similar needs to survive and grow. The Living Things|Science Song for Kids|Elementary Life Science summarizes the characteristics of living things and gives various examples. Here is the link if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzN299RpJHA