When Veronica gifts us a collection of seeds, we gently examine them.
“They’re peas. I gotta
tell Howie!” – John
”Peas are for making
lunch. I love peas.” –
Picking up another seed, Jacob asks: “Onions?”
“These seeds are
gonna grow onions!” – John
From the food scraps we pull out the red pepper tops, their seeds still clinging on. As we shake them vigorously, the tiny seeds let go and rain down on the table. Picking up the seeds and placing them in the onion tops and lettuce leaf carriers begins.
Day after day we collect seeds.
“We have to build a garden.” – Quinn
“A big big big big big garden.” – Jenna
“A small onion garden.” – Jacob
“We need a big one, because they are going to grow big.” – John
“What about big and small?” -Jacob
“Where will the seeds go?” – Educator
“A big garden and a tiny garden.” – Jenna
Together we plant, design,
build, and care for a garden
For weeks, we focus our attention on designing the garden that we want to build in our outdoor space.
Using the wooden blocks, we make
structures of the planters.
Embodying a garden, children become seeds crouching inside the garden.
“I am a seed.” – Laura
“I’m becoming a plant.” – Anna
Quinn notices the differences between the shape and sizes of the seeds and draws each one.
“The big circle is the garden and the small circles are the seeds. This is the water (pointing to the lines around the edges). A garden with seeds needs water.” – Jacob
Quinn brings her drawing to the children building the block garden and asks them to build her designed circle garden. Not an easy task. Using different blocks, the group of children try to
replicate the circular design.
Shaking her head, Quinn
disapproves each prototype: “No, it’s a square, it needs to be a circle.”
We bring the problem of building a circular planter to other children.
How do we build a circle garden?
The carrot group had been working on creating a circle with straight carrot peels. We look to them for guidance and bring the problem to morning meeting. How do we build a circle garden?
With Jacob’s drawing projected on the wall, several prototypes emerge. John uses the curved blocks to create circle shapes, but Jacob is still not satisfied: “The circles are too small. They need to be bigger.”
John adds more curved blocks to the outside of the circle, while Julie spreads her curved blocks farther apart. After several attempts we decide to bring Jacob’s design to someone who might be able to help.
Expanding our community, the centre’s facilities manager, Andrew, the centre’s licensing director, Carrie , and a carpenter, Rob, join the inquiry.
We share the
scaled drawings and wooden models with Andrew, Carrie, and Rob in a virtual meeting. Together
we think about where to put the planters and how to build a planter.
“We need circle gardens and square gardens.”
We consult with Andrew and Carrie and decide
that removable planters would be best to meet
requirements. We find out that we could fit four planters on the playground.
Rob shares images of what these gardens might look, to see if they align with our plans.
When Rob inquires about the height of the
planters, the children provide precise measurements using their arms and bodies.
Collectively, they would like the gardens to reach their belly buttons.
“They can be this tall (stands up and places
her hand at her belly button) button).”
Each child takes a turn standing and sharing their belly button height.
But then a problem emerges:
how do we tell Rob how tall
our belly buttons are?
Jennifer suggests: “We can measure our bodies using measuring tapes”.
We spend days using blocks and tape measures to measure how tall children’s belly buttons are. “It’s 15 numbers”, – Susan announces.
We email Rob with images, as well as the number of blocks it took to reach that height.
Rob replies and sends us his
design options, explaining how they align with the children’s
We enthusiastically approve the design, and building takes place.
Deconstructed planters arrive at our door
on a cool morning.
Together we carry
piece by piece into our
outdoor space and carefully assemble each planter.
Jacob makes an “x” on the ground to show how the legs of the planter are assembled: “I think it must be in an x because x usually tells you where something is!”
We meet with Andrew in the yard to discuss and map out the location of the garden. Using measuring tapes, we mark where the garden will go.
Measuring and rulers
As rulers become part of our daily engagements, together we studied the rulers. We notice the lines and numbers on the ruler as we draw.
“The numbers tell us how tall it is and the numbers that the plant is growing.” – John and Cory
“Those are the lines, and they point to the numbers.” – John
“Do all rulers have numbers?” – Educator
“Some rulers are small, and some rulers are big and different shapes.” – Amy
“It can also measure tall things, but we don’t have long rulers.” – Jennifer
We use paper and pencils to more closely study the ruler and create a very long ruler to measure tall things. Measuring has now become a common practice in the classroom. We measure long materials, tall and short furniture, and tall and short people.
Planting and Tending to the Garden
Children plant seeds with their families at home and bring them back to our classroom.
Through this collaborative intergenerational process, we exchange ideas and knowledge about gardening.
We think about multiple forms of caring.
We also receive notes
from children’s homes:
We transport bags of soil into the yard
to plant seedlings and start new seeds.
“I think the plants are going to grow as tall as our belly buttons.” – Maria
“Plants sometimes grow tall and sometimes they grow close to the ground.” – Jennifer
“We need to put the plants somewhere so when we are not here, strangers don’t take them.” – Susan
“We need a strong wall or cage for the plants to keep the squirrels away.” – John
“We can take turns being scarecrows.” – Carly
We think together about how to plant the seeds and how we will care for the plants in the garden.
Through collective dialogue, we make decisions about which plants and seeds to plant in the garden.
Educators offer the idea of companion planting through stories like What Grows in Larry’s Garden?
“Which plants can be a family?” – Jennifer
“How do we know how to put them with what plants?” – John
“Maybe we can read another book about that and find out what that means.” – Jennifer
We use rulers to measure
how much the plants grow each day.
“Rulers are for measuring gardens and plants.” – Zoe
“It tells us how tall it is.” – Leo
“We measure it with the numbers.” – Christian
“To see if they are getting sun and water and then we give it to them and then measure them to see if they have grown.” – Claire
“To see how tall or short or small.” – Zoe
Zoe maneuvers the ruler deeper in the soil and
declares that the plant measures “52 hundred.”
Our interest in measurements continues as we develop strategies of our own.
Plants become living members of our community and we tend to them every day.
Caring for the garden is an important part of the children’s daily rituals.
“You have to care about them, so they grow.” – Susan
“Put them outside, that’s what caring is for plants.” – John
Caring for the plants allows us to notice weather patterns, the many insects that live in our garden, and the foods that we eat.
Caring for the plants is not easy.
We soon learn that the
seedlings do not like the hot sun. Some of our plants shrivel and die.
Families offer us new plants that are already used to the warm weather. We watch the plants very carefully and attend to their needs daily. We learn to attune to the small plants. We watch as leaves and flowers grow, and vegetables and fruits emerge.
“You have to water them and put them outside. That’s what caring is for plants.” – John
“You have to care about them so that they grow.” – Susan
“Our plants got too hot from the sun and died.” – John
Gifting seeds to others
Put the dirt in the cup
Make a hole with your finger
Put the seeds in the hole and cover them
Add water slowly so the plant doesn’t die
Put the cup in the sunshine.
We don’t have space for all the seedlings and we have many spare seeds, so we gift them to Kyle,
Brenda (centre’s director), and the toddler room.
With the seedlings, we also offer a set of instructions about planting that we create in our collective.
We deliver the gifts and discuss the idea of receiving regular updates on how the seeds are growing.
Enthusiastically, we pay careful attention to the weekly photos and written updates that we receive from the toddler room.
Zucchini are the
Daisy reaches inside the planter and slowly and carefully pulls the fat zucchini off the vine. It does not come off easily, requiring many twists and turns before it is released.
We become a larger community
as we regularly visit their garden
and share our learnings.
It is starting to become a ritual to check the toddler room’s garden and decide if their plants need water, similar to the process of how we tend our own garden.
John points out that one of the two plants we transplanted died. There is only one plant visible in the garden: “I think it died because there was too much water. Maybe we gave them too much water. But today there’s a lot of sun, so they need water or they’ll be too hot.”
Together we decide to offer water to both plants, the one that is still alive and the plant that died or disappeared.
After we water the garden, Leo asks to
draw the plants. As we draw the plants, both John and Daisy narrate their experience.
“This is the long stem. Here Charlotte,
I’ll show you where” – John points to each
part of the plant as he draws it.
We are curious about the shape of the zucchini.
We bring our rulers and
measuring tapes to learn more about the zucchini’s size from many different angles.
We gift our first zucchini to Kyle, who gifts it back to us as grilled zucchini for part of our lunch the next day, and as one of our scraps.
At the end of the week, we bring the zucchini scraps to the compost.
Jessica traces the shape of the zucchini and adds other elements to draw out its journey. With each new element added to the drawing, the story of the zucchini takes shape.
The zucchini sits in the middle of the page. It travels to several places: the classroom building, outside, the composter, and finally to the garden. The zucchini travels from place to place, meeting others along the way. It meets Kyle and the toddlers.