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Preschool gardening engages children by providing an interactive environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture and learn. School and child care gardens are living laboratories where interdisciplinary lessons are drawn from real life experiences, encouraging children to become active participants in the learning process.
Studies have shown that school gardens encourage preference and consumption of fruits and vegetables, increase parental support and involvement, and improve childrens’ enthusiasm about preschool/child care, teamwork skills and self-understanding. Gardens can be easily integrated into classroom learning and can be as simple as a raised bed or a few containers. Below is a list of resources to help you start and sustain your preschool garden.
The CSGN is a resource designed for K-12 schools in California yet is useful for preschools and other child care settings in any state. Resources include curricula, advice and trouble shooting for starting new school gardens, handouts to replicate, and information on grants and healthy fundraisers.
The Center is best known for its pioneering work with school gardens, school lunches, and integrating ecological principles and sustainability into school curricula. They offer an online guide, Getting Started: A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classroom which offers guidelines on raising funds, preparing sites, designing and maintaining gardens and connecting gardens to classroom learning.
The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network under the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices, many are available to help you with resources for your garden
UEPI’s Farm to Preschool program has developed a Preschool Garden Primer in conjunction with the Garden School Foundation. It is designed for use by preschool providers with any knowledge of gardening, including beginners. The program also utilizes this planting guide when providing technical assistance to preschools. An active partner of the program, North County Community Services in San Diego, CA, has developed this handout for growing potatoes in a bag.
Raised beds are nothing new. The idea is to elevate the garden to maximize drainage, improve the soil, and enhance access. Keyhole gardens are a riff on that idea, with one addition: a center compost area that works as a self-fertilizing element for the plants. A salad keyhole garden takes it a step further, by planting specific vegetables and herbs together–to be picked at the same time–to create a delicious dish.
KidsGardening.org is a resource-based website with information on school garden grants, curricula, books, advice on school and family gardening as well as an online store.
Fresh, Healthy, and Safe Food: Best Practices for Using Produce From School Gardens
Compilation of best practices useful for preschools and other childcare settings.
An unorthodox school garden resource, About.com has a Local Food section that links to seasonal fruits and vegetable lists for each state, further linking to information on each plant.
Got Dirt? The Garden Toolkit for Implementing Youth Gardens reviews the basic steps for starting a school gardening including success stories from preschool gardens.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Team Nutrition have developed a booklet that explores gardening in the child care setting.