Monday, April 29, 2019

Gardening in Preschool

I love Gardening no matter what season!  New growth, fresh air, a bit of rain (hopefully), hearing bird sounds, herbs, vegetables, and flowers.  I love to impart my love of learning to the children, so we have to have fun activities to learn with while we investigate gardening.  I like to introduce gardening by taking a walking trip around the yard to look at what plants are there, what needs watering at the moment, and what needs plant food.  This is always a great time to allow watering as the plants may wilt. Children learn best and internalize what they learn with hands on activities included daily.

We talk about what plants need:  Soil (usually), water, and sun light.  We also have a vertical aeroponic garden (tower garden). Almost daily we take our magnifying glasses out to investigate plants, and bugs, spider webs, ripe tomatoes or cucumbers, and so much more. As it is spring right now in Florida it isn't too hot, and it is usually sunny.  That means the VPK class can work in centers outside as much as possible.  That means spelling words making letters with small sticks, or using our rock letters, or building bug buildings or whatever else in the outside block area.

We have had the tower garden for 2 years now.  It is a great tool to see the growing process as they grow faster than on the ground.  Also, being at eye level or just above eye level we can  notice daily the leaves budding out and growing, flowers blooming and produce growing out of the bloom or behind the bloom.  Watering plants is great for each age from 1 year olds to 5 or 6 year olds.  Its calming and they feel important as they are helping plants grow.

Below you can see one of the painted lady butterflies that we grew this year from Insect Lore Butterfly Larvae.  We have had great success with them as almost all hatch out to release.  We also grow ladybugs to release.  Both are beneficial insects for gardening, which of course we learn about the benefits of butterflies and ladybugs in gardening with literacy and exploration.

 Below is our worm bin.  This is what happens when the children put the Little People pigs in during farm activities, and also include some wheat berries that were for "feeding" the Little People animals. :)  Great impromptu science activity.  These wheat berries are over 10 years old and still sprout very quickly (2-3 days)
 Painting pots and planting seeds or flowers is another fun, hands on activity for gardening.  Three and four year olds can fill the pot on their own, and be in charge of their own planting.

A less expensive version of planting seeds is the paper cup.  They can later be planted at home with ease.
Caring for the butterfly garden often is a class activity.  Pulling weeds to allow the plants to grow better, which means learning the difference between a weed and a plant.  Also they need watering daily in Florida due to the heat.  

The butterfly garden changes with the seasons.  We added some herbs that butterflies are supposed to like and lay their eggs on.  So far they seem to like laying their eggs on the tower garden and munching on our cucumbers. :(
 We upgraded our sink to this stainless steel hand sink.  Purchased it on Amazon if you would like one.  Super easy install if you get the quick connect hose attachment.  I love this sink, it is easy for all children to access the water to fill the watering cans and water plants.  It also makes messy play easy to clean up outside instead of tracking in just to wash hands.

 Since most gardening includes soil and mud, having a mud kitchen or mud experience area is a must.  We had a different mud kitchen, one that looked more like a kitchen.  However, being in Florida, the ants decided to nest in it.  We upgraded to a Cedar Slab (bugs don't like cedar) coated with polyurethane.  In other states you probably don't need the polyurethane.  I think the children like the new mud kitchen better as they can get more children at the mud kitchen, and they don't have to be alert for ant invasions.  Our gathering area/stepping logs often serve as a table or party area.

Enough of the outside activities!  Many of our activities can be enjoyed inside or outside.  Such as the playdoh garden word spelling, or making sight words with rock letters, or anything that is heavy enough to not blow away.

Some activities are better inside.  We quickly discovered that paper activities are better inside due to the breeze blowing them away. Counting butterfly noodles (bowtie noodles) on the number flower is one such item, Matching ladybug letters is another.  

Dancing around flowers is a creative expression task (we use old check in flowers) and a gross motor task.  Planning where your feet are going to land is important, so this targets gross motor as well.

 Some of our inside literacy activities during gardening study are matching rainbow letter with beginning sounds (rain), and number of syllables.  Also below are umbrella rhyming words.  Many of the activities we use are from Lavina Pop's Spring Preschool Center

Love this sight word petal to flower matching game.  So helpful and fits perfectly in this old fossil watch box.!

 We also have some mini carrot addition and subtraction games.  I found the mini carrots on Amazon.  Obviously don't give them to children that still put things in their mouth.
The sight word fishing game is from Lakeshore Learning.  It is a fantastic tool.  At first we play fishing with the pieces up.  We focus on finding a word they can identify then typically they find all of the one word.  They can keep the ones in front of them they can say.  Then we play fishing for different words - keeping the ones they can read.  Now we are playing it turning all the fish word side down, and reading the words they catch.  Again, they get to keep in front of them the words they can read.

 The Sunflower Sight Word game we have had many years.  It was printed from File Folder Fun.

This matching game is slightly harder words with the silent E at the end.  Not everyone is up to this challenge yet in our Pre-K VPK classroom.

So many fun math activities for gardening, spring, bugs, or whatever that fit in with gardening.  Counting ants is fun.  They roll playdoh to make the letter then count the right number of ants on the page.  I slide the paper pages into sheet protectors for use with playdoh.

Below are playdoh pages with visual instructions for students.  It's the same concept.  Roll out playdoh to make letter, then roll playdoh into a little raindrop making the correct number of raindrops.

 Love this caterpillar beginning letter sounds game.  Involves using links to connect, or if that is too challenging it can be lined up like a caterpillar.
Using acorns to count out the number on each seed section.  Easy, fun, sensory. :)

 This flower letter/phonics game is awesome.  First - the upper case and lower case letters can be matched.  Additionally each set of letters can be matched with one color set of pictures.  Multiple games in one. This is included in the Spring Preschool Center I linked above.
 Love these printable words that print above carrots.  So easy to use for writing in sand, spelling with magnetic letters, or whatever way you want to use them. These cards are in Morning Work Stations - April linked above.

Then for dramatic play, there is the florist shop for pretend planting, arranging, buying, and selling flowers.  

And of course you need painting, whether it is stamping with ink or paint, using paint brushes, or hands, some sort of artistic expression is explored.

More fun math counting from the same set.
 One of our sweet butterflies being released.
Just a fun use of ladybug and bee rocks - playing tic tac toe. 

 I highly recommend taking a field trip to a farm to see gardening on a much larger scale.  One big benefit is you will have something yummy to enjoy - this was strawberry picking. :)

Last, but definitely not least, is a small selection of our books we use when talking about gardening.  Also, a sample week lesson plan we have used.  There are many more wonderful books for learning about gardening.  Message me if you would like more book titles.

Lastly, this is how I store my centers ready for the day.

Now go inspire a love of gardening!! 

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