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‘Nurture fresh thinking for a healthy world’

SHS Garden Journal Blog

Early Years Learning - In the Preschool Garden

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Over the past eight months Seed Harvest Spoon have been building knowledge alongside the children and educators at the 26 Sydney wide Only About Children campuses. 

The children are learning how they can contribute to caring for our earth by waste sorting to reduce what goes to landfill, recycling food scraps to create healthy soil, turning off taps and mindful water play to conserve water.

Over the last two months the children have been learning about where their food comes by planting and growing a range of seasonal vegetables in their garden. Engagement with soil, plants and the outdoors contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of every child.

Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity.

Sharing the experience of growing food with peers and educators encourages a sense of belonging and responsibility. Planting a seed is a careful cognitive process, especially when understanding how deep to plant a carrot seed compared to a bean seed. Dexterity skills are developed when carefully picking up the tiny carrot seed and sowing it in the soil. At the end of the lesson all 30 seed pots are lined up the children look for their name label with pride and enthusiasm. 

Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world.

Using a magnifying glass children explore up close a diversity of creatures that live in the soil under their feet. They are excited to discover different creatures, but worms are always a favourite! No matter how many worms children find each new discovery is celebrated with more joy than the last. Adding compost or nutrient rich vermicast to the soil keeps our newly planted seedlings healthy. Especially when food scraps from our kitchen have helped to create the natural fertiliser. Compost and vermicast help our veggies grow strong and provide our body with nutrients and minerals when we eat them freshly picked.

Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.

Our plants thrive and grow by absorbing sunshine, so do we. Time spent outdoors is beneficial to our emotional and physical wellbeing. Involvement in gardening generates a sense of purpose, where soil under our fingernails is a healthy sign of connection to nature! Handling a delicate seed or seedling provides us with a tactile connection to life. Harvesting the lettuce, carrots, spinach and bok choy we grow in our preschool garden is a tasty nutrient rich bowl of goodness for our growing body.

Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners.

Children love to learn, as Seed Harvest Spoon become a familiar face at the many campuses we visit, the children confidently and enthusiastically greet us by asking “What are we learning today?” When we ask the children what we spoke about last time we visited, they eagerly respond with soil, worms, water, rubbish, recycling, turning off taps and more. When planting a seedling children are learning about the process and technique. They engage in learning by digging a hole in the soil with a trowel, carefully placing the seedling in the hole without disturbing the roots, covering the roots with soil for protection, giving a little water and placing some mulch around the soil to conserve water. Vocabulary expands by using correct terminology in the garden. Early skills in science develop as we observe the germination of a carrot seed. Experimentation and inquiry evolve though questioning - What happens if I plant my seed too deep? What if I forget to water my seed?

Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators.

In the garden we learn and create context by sharing stories, children talk eagerly about their home garden. Child’s voice: “My Dad grows chillies in our garden, he loves them, but I don’t, they're too hot for me!”  Using our imagination, body movement and storyboards helps us understand how a seed comes to life. We read a book with engaging images and rhyming words to finish off the lesson, its a fun way to reflect on what we have learnt. Labels help us to identify our individual seed pot and what we have planted, some of us are writing our own name and words, while others are great at spelling their name helping the teacher to write it for them.  We read the seed packet and discover it may take 14 days of watering and waiting for our seed to germinate. Teachers use their iPad as a tool for taking photos and documenting learning that we can use to recount our experience later. 

Children's seed pots lined up around garden bed ready to take home & below a carrot seed planted by a preschooler that has germinated.

Author: Michelle Carrick 
Seed Harvest Spoon Co-Founder & Program Director 
© 2016:Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation Ltd.


Commonwealth of Australia Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: Early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations.

World Environment Day: Go Wild!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated widely, in over 100 countries, on 5 June each year. 

WED is a global platform for raising awareness and for taking action towards positive environmental outcomes. 

Go Wild for Life’ is this year’s WED theme. Here at Seed Harvest Spoon we have been thinking about this theme, from a slightly different angle, after receiving a little gem in our inbox this week.  

For Seed Harvest Spoon, this year’s WED theme is the perfect prompt to reflect on the importance for children to be in nature and have the chance to ‘go (just a little bit) wild’.

As a global day of awareness, WED presses us to think about the big environmental challenges. As adults we know the impact of global warming, loss of biodiversity, reduced habitat, and rising ocean temperatures. We understand why it is important that we take proactive steps to make a difference. For most of us, the impetus to take action is driven by a clear vision of what will be lost if we don’t.   

As children though, the experience is different. The world is something they are still learning about and as they learn they will develop their individual priorities and values based on the experiences they are exposed to. 

At Seed Harvest Spoon a priority for us, in inspiring a lifelong commitment to protecting our natural environment, is supporting children to discover a sense of wonder and awe about the natural world. In our workshops children play with soil, get their hands dirty, go searching for insects, plant a seed and watch it grow! 

They are, at least for a short time, immersed in nature. 

Our inspiration boost for this week (and for WED) was a quote from renowned and respected environmental champion, Bill McKibben. Both uplifting and timely it serves as a reminder on the importance of letting children ‘go wild’ and its lifelong impact. 

"...the goal is to get kids to fall in love with the world around them, and you don't really fall in love with a terminally ill planet…(we should help children) to understand what a beautiful place this world is. Once they figure that out, they will be its defenders."

We couldn’t agree more!

So with this in mind, let your kids ‘go wild’ this WED. Turn off the screens, take the kids outdoors, let them get their hands dirty and encourage them to find one thing in nature that makes them say “wow”.

You can read all about WED here and why they want us all to ‘Go Wild for Life’ this year here.

Author: Lisa Whatley
Seed Harvest Spoon Development & Grants Consultant
Copyright 2016: Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation Ltd.

Wonderful Water - Early Years Learing

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Seed harvest Spoon has been talking water with 3-5year olds at Early Childhood centres around Sydney this past month. These children understand how important water is to people and to our planet. When we put the question to them, “Is water important?” little hands shoot up and small voices shriek out “Yes!” 

In response to “Why is water important?” we are assured that people need to drink water every day, to keep healthy. Animals need water too (especially fish) and so do our plants. 

While we celebrate World Water Day during March, we are reminded that water really is a precious, limited resource that we need to think about daily. It is worth revisiting the statistic that of all the water on our beautiful blue planet, only 3% is freshwater, and of that only 1% is available as drinking water. This 1% is shared by the whole world. 

We really are fortunate in this country to have the luxury of clean fresh water at our fingertips, and it is something that we are all perhaps guilty of taking for granted. Travelling in other countries can really drive that message home, we find ourselves looking forward to getting home and not having to worry about buying or boiling our water. 

We can be more thoughtful with our usage in our day-to-day lives, and our preschoolers can lead the way. Don’t put off fixing that leaking tap! Put a timer in the shower, 3-4 minutes is ample time, any longer really is luxury. Think about pouring bathwater on the garden- this is a great one to do with the kids. Being mindful of water usage is a great start. 

Re-read “Tiddalik- the frog who caused a Flood.” We really don’t want to be the selfish frogs of the world.

Author: Natalie Er
Seed Harvest Spoon Education Leader
Copyright 2016: Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation Ltd.

Children's Activities - August 2014

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Activity 1: A Splash of Colour


  • Variety of flower seeds: marigold, nasturtium, calendula, cosmos, cornflower, sweet alyssum, daisy and dill.
  • Small bowl


  1. Combine flower seeds in bowl. 
  2. Use your fingertips to take a small handful of mixed seeds.
  3. Sprinkle seeds broadly over the garden soil like a gentle fall of rain.
  4. Water the garden seeds.
  5. Visit, wait and watch the seeds sprout and grow to provide a splash of colour throughout your veggie plants.
  6. The colour and fragrance of the flowers are an invitation to beneficial insects, such as bees, wasps, hoverfly, lacewings, ladybird, butterflies, hawk moths, dragonfly, damselfly, and lacewings, to protect and enhance your garden.

Activity 2: Design a Guild

What is a plant guild?

Plant Guild’s are an essential feature of a Permaculture garden as they strengthen growth and foster permanence. Guilds are groups of different plants that work together to use the features of each to maximise full potential. Picture garden diversity, including layers (stacks) of plants, with small plants that support large plants or trees and you will begin to see what a guild represents.
Some features of guilds:
Layers (think a forest) – groundcover, supportive plants, protective plants.
Soil regenerating plants.
Food for humans and animals.
Habitat for insects and animals.
Various root depths to maximise mineral/nutrient harvesting from soil levels.
Perennial plants - stability.
Plant variety to foster natural pest control, and promote beneficial insects.
Diversity to promote healthy ecosystems.

Do you have a fruit tree in your garden that is bare at ground level or being smothered by grass?

This is the perfect spot to create a guild. Conduct research on companion plants that will benefit your particular tree species.
Let’s look at the lemon tree as an example.

Lemon Tree Guild

Lemon Tree Characteristics:
Food – variety of uses in food preparation, medicinal properties.
Forage – flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects.
Habitat – birds, insects.
Lemon trees are heavy feeders and are susceptible to pest and disease attack.

Companion Plants 

Comfrey or legumes (sweet pea) slash and mulch to add nitrogen to soil.Nasturtium used for ground cover and aphid control.
Creeping thyme or lamb’s ear as ground cover plants to protect soil and provide habitat for soil creatures.
Dill, tansy, borage, marigold and lavender – attract beneficial insects.
Guava is a friend of the citrus family; planted close will aid health and protection. 
Grape vines entwined nearby to repel stink beetles.

Include native stingless Sugarbag bees (Tetragonula Carbonaria) within your garden – they love to forage on citrus plants contributing to pollination…

Author: Michelle Carrick
Seed Harvest Spoon Co-Founder and Program Director
Copyright 2014 Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation Ltd.

Using the Early Years Learning Framework Outcomes to Support Sustainability

Friday, April 11, 2014

Each day in Child Care Services opportunities for introducing Sustainability are available. Concepts that support The Early Years Learning Framework and My Time Our Place outcomes may be overlooked. By thinking about our own practice and being thoughtful of the lens' we use to do so, we can provide both the children that we work with and ourselves an opportunity to learn about our local community and the world we live in. 

The Early Years Learning Framework and My Time Our Place are measured against 5 key learning outcomes:

Learning Outcome 1: By talking about feelings when discussing our precious
fresh water supply and discussing strategies that the children may be involved in,
discuss the need to be aware of our own Environmental Footprint. Children learn to interact with care, empathy and respect. Children have a strong sense of identity.

Learning Outcome 2:
 Involve children in waste management and allow them to be involved in solutions about were their rubbish goes. This could be through simply separating waste into different bins labelled with pictures, or establishing a Worm Farm or Compost Bin. Discuss the different types of resources the children enjoy working with and if they can be sourced locally. Children become socially responsible and show respect for their environment. Children are connected with and contribute to their world. 

Learning Outcome 3: Going on local Community walks and identifying birds
and plant life gives children an understanding of their local community and who
they share it with. Discussion about healthy eating can be supported by growing
favourite vegetables such as carrots or peas. The story of the "Enormous
Turnip" could be acted out. Children have a strong sense of wellbeing.

Learning Outcome 4:
 Recognise that when children jump in to a puddle they are
engaging in an investigation. Build on a child's interest in their local community
and environment. Educators can build on children's inquisitiveness by
introducing both natural and recycled materials to encourage questions and
hypothesising. Children are confident and involved learners.

Learning Outcome 5:
 Introduce the seasons to children explaining the
changes each season brings, and grow seasonal vegetables. Expanding
on this to encourage discussion and terms to represent what is occurring, like asking
"Where does a cloud come from?", could provide a discussion about precipitation
and condensation. Even very young children can be involved with songs and
stories about rain and water. "Tiddalick" is a great story to support this concept.
Introduce and use resources that are recycled such as boxes or containers as
props for children to use, explaining to them how important it is for all of us to
recycle and not over-consume the natural resources of our community. Children
are effective communicators.

If we consider ways in which sustainable practices can be embedded throughout
the day, our philosophy will reflect this.


  • Commonwealth of Aust. 2009b; Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early
Years Learning Framework of Australia, Canberra ACT; DEEWR,
http; learning
  • Raban, B, Margetts, K, Church, A, Deans, J, 2010; The Early Years Learning
Framework in Practice; MA Education
  • Vegotsky, L, 1978; Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Mental
Processes MS: Cambridge University Press.

Written by: Sharon Dodd-Gilhooly - SHS Facilitator; March 2014

Copyright Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation 

Children's Activity - February 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marvellous Mulch

What kinds of bugs live in the soil?

If you go outside, and dig a little under the leaf litter and into the soil, you might find millipedes, centipedes, slaters and ants. Dig a little deeper and you might find a worm! There are also a lot of tiny bacteria that live in the soil, and we would need a microscope to see them. They are so small, but are very, very important. All of these bugs are important in our garden ecosystem and we can help give them a great habitat to live in by adding mulch to our garden beds. 

Sugar Cane Mulch, or Lucerne Mulch not only add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes or breaks down over time, it also helps to keep the soil moist and provides a home for these creatures to thrive. Bales of organic mulch are available at hardware stores and garden centres.  Or you can collect leaves from your garden or the park – fallen leaves make excellent mulch, and contain the nutrients absorbed from the tree that they fell from. As they break down all this goodness is released into the soil. Leaves are the mulch of a forest floor. 

Mulching the garden beds is a fun job, if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty!

Kids love mulching. It is one of their favourite jobs in the garden.


You will need:

  • Bale of Organic Sugar Cane Mulch or Lucerne, or
  • Fallen leaves
  • Full watering can


  • Always water down the mulch before using it. We don’t want to breathe in the dust or tiny microorganisms that will be in the mulch. 
  • Keep a watering can handy to keep wetting the top layer down, as you work deeper into the bale.
  • Give the garden a shower with the hose before adding the mulch. The mulch will help to keep the moisture in the soil, and keep the soil microbes alive!
  • Dig into the bale with your hands, and grab a big handful. Place that gently on the garden beds. We aim to cover all the soil in the garden bed to a depth of 5cm. 
  • Leave some space around the roots of plants, about 10cm promoting airflow – to prevent root rot and fungal disease. 
  • Once the whole garden bed is covered, water over the mulch with the hose or watering can. 

What’s so good about mulch?

  1. Adds nutrients to soil.
  2. Water saving.
  3. Habitat for soil life.
  4. Weed reduction.
  5. Soil protection - decreases soil compaction and erosion.
  6. Increased organic matter.
  7. Soil temperature moderation – keeping soil cool in summer and warm in winter.

Children's Activity - December 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

The gift that keeps on giving – a simple yet effective way to share growing with others this Christmas season is through the gift of seeds. Made even more perfect if you have saved seed from your own garden. If not has a great variety of organic seeds. Seeds promote new life, hope and beauty as they grow into a plant that can later be enjoyed as a healthy nutritious food – it may just ignite an inspiration for further gardening. Involve children to creatively decorate and personalise a terracotta pot - hand paint and lacquer your unique design for the person receiving the gift to plant their seeds.

Visit Planet Ark for their 12 Do’s of Christmas - tips to reduce the environmental and even financial impact of the festive season.

If you’re looking for planet friendly Christmas ideas, take a peek at Milkwood Permaculture’s gift list. 

Children's Activity - November

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Make a Solitary Bee Hive

Did you know that there are over 1500 species of native bee in Australia, and almost all of them are solitary bees? This means that all the females are fertile, and each female will make a home in a nest constructed by herself. There are no worker bees for these species.

These bees often like to build their homes in hollowed or dead branches in trees, and tidy gardens often unwittingly take these potential homes away. All bees are important pollinators in any ecosystem and we need to promote their survival.

We can provide a home for these busy workers quite easily:
  1. Using soft wooded branches from plants such as tibouchina, hydrangea, lantana or grapevine, we can cut them into 20 cm lengths.
  2. Bundle about 12 of the lengths of branches together.
  3. Secure with soft wire at either end. Some people use duct tape to secure the bunch of branches.
  4. Tie the hive to a sheltered branch of a tree, and wait for the bees to come!  They will hollow out the soft pithy centre of the wood. 

You may entice the Reed bee, Carpenter bee or Leafcutter bee.

Author: Natalie Er, Faciliator - Seed Harvest Spoon.

Children's Activity - September

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Children’s Activity - The life of a Seed

Seeds can be found everywhere! Seeds come in different shapes and sizes, and are bursting to spring to life when the right conditions exist. Seeds can be found in pods, flower heads and fruits. Water and warmth are the perfect kick-start to the process of germination.

Observe seeds in the environment

When you next see a Dandelion Flower, watch it over a few days observing and documenting change over time. Notice the transformation from the bright yellow flower to a head full of seeds that disperse in the breeze to create new plants. When children blow the seeds to make a wish, let them know they are mimicking seed dispersal that occurs in nature with a breath of wind.

Strawberries are a favourite to observe, as they grow in our garden or in pots whilst you nurture the gift of patience. Children are so eager to pick a delicious strawberry as soon as they see a hint of red; their anticipation is harvested as they check on the fruit each day. Watch the fruit as it emerges from the flower – point out the tiny seeds. Protect the fruit from slugs and snails to avoid disappointment.

Take the time with your children to notice the different types of seeds found in our favourite fruits - Watermelon, Rockmelon, Apple, Pear, Banana, Tomato.  Identify the stages of life with children by matching the seed to its plant and fruit. 

Sprouts in the kitchen

While it is important for children to experience and observe delayed results as they occur in nature – it is also exciting for children to experience immediate results. This balance will create interest in exploring learning further. A great way to do this, whilst promoting healthy eating is by growing sprouts in a jar on your kitchen windowsill. Sprouts are a tasty and nutritious addition to your salad or sandwiches that and are easily grown.  They can be harvested about 6 days after planting. Tasty varieties include Radish, Fenugreek and Broccoli sprouts.

Sunflower Seeds

Children love the beauty of a sunflower. Its size, vivid yellow colour and abundance of seeds visible on the plant is a point of fascination for children.  The germination of a sunflower seed is the perfect way to demonstrate the complete life cycle of a plant from seed to new seed. Once the sunflower has matured and you are ready to collect its seeds – count how many seeds can be collected from one flower – you will be amazed! Save the seeds to start the growth process again.

Birds, Bees and other Garden Creatures

Growing plants from seed is extremely rewarding. Particularly when the seed has been saved from a mature plant in your garden. While we can give seeds a helping hand to grow by planting them in soil and nurturing them, teaching children the important role that birds, bees, other creatures and wind have in this process is invaluable. Pollination and seed dispersal are essential to the existence of living things for the production of food sources. The story of pollen collecting on the tiny feet of a bee as it feeds on nectar, dropping this on another flower that it stops at for another little feed; is a memorable way for young children to envisage this process.

A wonderful resource to further explore the potential of seeds is The Seed Savers’ Handbook by Michel & Jude Fanton.

Children's Activity July - Garden Journal Writing

Friday, June 28, 2013

Every garden has a story to tell........

A journal is an essential element to record your garden adventures. It tells your unique story and can be documented by hand in a scrapbook or digitally by creating a blog page, vlog, recording footage or a photographic montage.

Documentation instills a sense of achievement as the sequence of events shows how far you have travelled on your quest to create your garden - beginning with a bare patch of lawn to achieving a productive edible food garden and everything in between. Include the steps taken, new skills and knowledge developed, lessons learnt and recognition for all the people that have been involved in the project.

A journal using a combination of words, images, drawings, notes, mind maps, procedures, recounts, samples, comments, feedback, ideas and goals provides the tools to stimulate memory enabling a retelling of your garden story.

Documentation supports students to recount events and reinforce knowledge and skills learnt while engaged in the garden.  A well documented journal can become a class resource as a reference for future learning. It is also an excellent way to integrate IT into the garden.

Young children particularly love referring back to events in their lives and retelling stories to their friends and family. They rejoice in remembering important times in their lives when they have been actively involved in a project with their friends – with the addition of photographs they will recognise themselves and their friends telling the story from their perspective. The journal will become a storybook of your family or community's continuous garden story.