‘Nurture fresh thinking for a healthy world’
SHS Garden Journal Blog
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.
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.
We started composting at our service three years ago after doing the Seed Harvest Spoon composting program. It took a while for us to feel confident and after some trial and error we have found the balance.
We now have four compost bins in operation with one usually resting.
Some of the items we have found successful are paper towels, food scraps, shredded paper from the classroom and office, newspaper, coffee grounds, tea bags and excess paper and cardboard from the collage area.
We add our paper towels to the compost at the end of each day.
We also encourage families to use the bins.
We don’t put bread or meat in our compost.
To make the process part of our embedded practice: we are mentoring other educators. Staff members have an allocated task to make sure the program is successful.
We stir our compost once a week and that seems to be enough to produce healthy soil for our garden beds.
Author Sue - EC Teacher St. Andrews Kindergarten Abbotsford &
Education Facilitator Seed Harvest Spoon Education Foundation
Learning Outcome 1: By talking about feelings when discussing our precious
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.
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.
the day, our philosophy will reflect this.
- Commonwealth of Aust. 2009b; Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early
- Raban, B, Margetts, K, Church, A, Deans, J, 2010; The Early Years Learning
- Vegotsky, L, 1978; Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Mental
Written by: Sharon Dodd-Gilhooly - SHS Facilitator; March 2014
Thank-you Carolyn Nuttall for your endorsement of our work. We very much appreciate your kind words……...
"I much admire the work of the women of Seed Harvest Spoon. This small group of educators have banded together to design and implement very valuable programs in outdoor learning for young children.Schools can take advantage of this deal: quality teaching, programs connected to the curriculum, sustainability education at a budget price. Their programs will inspire the child's interest in the natural world, skill them in areas of waste recycling, teach them about soil and growing food and more….
For the children, they will feel part of the solution, a concept introduced by Bill Mollison and aptly applied to the young. "Permaculture encourages the individual to be resourceful and self-reliant, to become a conscious part of the solution to the many problems that face us, both locally and globally."
I recommend the work of Michelle, Bree and the team of Seed Harvest Spoon to all primary schools and early childhood centres."
Author of "A Children's Food Forest " and co-author with Janet Millington of "Outdoor Classrooms: A handbook for school gardens" February 2014
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.
Book Profile: Outdoor Classrooms - a handbook for school gardens by Carolyn Nuttall and Janet Millington
At the recent Learning in the Garden National Seminar QLD we had the pleasure to meet Carolyn Nuttall one of the authors of 'Outdoor Classrooms – a handbook for school gardens'. We felt very honoured – our discovery of Outdoor Classrooms several years ago set the scene for our own endeavour.
Outdoor Classrooms was the reference that ignited our enthusiasm and confidence as we embarked on our initial school garden project at our children's school. It is a trustworthy companion filled with ideas, inspiration and practical knowledge based on the experience of both authors Carolyn and Janet. They have thought of every element needed to create an engaging learning environment for students.
The below quote from the book resonates with our journey and philosophy, as we are now several years down the track and have gained much knowledge and developed new skills while on a continual learning journey alongside the children that we work with. It is a new adventure every day.
“Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything. If you wait until you know everything you won’t ever start. Learning about the garden, the creatures and natural systems is a learning journey; an adventure. You just have to get going and learn as you go.”
Outdoor Classrooms is an excellent resource for teachers, students and anyone that is involved in starting a school garden or would like to learn more. It supported our vision of creating a learning resource for the students and teachers that was not in addition to, or separate from curriculum learning outcomes. Instead the garden is a tool that integrates opportunities for practical hands on experiences to enhance holistic learning.
Permaculture ethics and principles are referenced through the text – this was another highlight for us that provided a further connection to the book, as Seed Harvest Spoon's philosophy is based on permaculture ethics, stewardship of the earth and community participation.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to ORDER a copy of Outdoor Classrooms, $43.95 (GST inclusive).
Healthy Soil is the essence of Healthy Life
Soil health is important to the health of our garden plants, and in turn to our health. What goes on within our soil life affects what we see above ground. Our plants draw their nutrients through their roots from the soil, contributing to the nutrients we receive when we eat the plant.
Before we embark on planting seeds or seedlings in our garden beds, it is important to have an understanding of our soil quality, type, texture and structure. Our soil quality can be improved by increasing organic matter, but we need to know what we are dealing with before we start.
This understanding can be achieved by performing a few simple tests to analyse your soil. Involving children in these experiments will help them to understand why certain plants flourish and thrive, whilst others may not have such resilience.
Children as Soil Scientists:
- Find three clean glass jars take a sample of soil from three different locations in your garden.
- Fill the glass jars a ¼ in depth with the soil. Top this up with water to around ¾ of the jars.
- Place a lid on the jars and give good shake – leave the jars undisturbed for a week.
- After a week without mixing the contents of the jars examine the layers that have formed.
Clay, sandy or loam?
This is a great tactile observational exercise when children feel like making mud pies.
- Take a hand full of soil, moisten the soil, scrunch and roll in your hand, and feel its texture.
Silt = smooth
Clay = sticky
- Roll the soil in your hand like a rope.
- A pH kit can be purchased so that you can test the levels in your soil at home or school. The Manutec Soil pH Test Kit available at garden stores or hardware stores, is complete with instructions to guide you in how to perform this test.
- The ideal pH for growing most fruit and vegetable plants averages between 6.0 and 7.5. A pH level of 7 is neutral figures over 7 are alkaline and figures below 7 are acidic.
"Earth User’s guide to Permaculture" by Rosemary Morrow
Kellie Bollard's latest book opens:
"Good design and lots of compost,
a little time and love,
sunshine, fresh air and water,
a shovel and some gloves.
A healthy eco system,
a garden full of creatures,
nature that is balanced
is what permaculture teaches."
The most experienced permaculturist will admit that there is a challenge in providing adults with a simple definition of what permaculture is about. This would be the reason why children's books on this design system are few and far between. Once again using rhyme and fun pictures, Kellie successfully engages and introduces children to the term permaculture and exposes them to some of its principles and ethics in creating a food garden e.g. valuing diversity, caring for the earth, sharing with others. A concise glossary assists in further understanding words that may be new to some children.
"Permaculture Gardens - Sow, Grow, Care, Share" is Kellie's third children's book. All three books are filled with beautiful photographs and rhyming language that will educate and inspire children as well as their parents, carers and educators with ways to care for our environment. "Worms, the Mechanics of Organics" was shortlisted in the 2012 Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature; and along with Kellie's first book "In the Bin" is now on the NSW Premiers Reading Challenge booklist.
We highly recommend that you purchase a set of all three books as a fantastic educational resource around sustainability for your family, service, school or library. Visit our Contact Page to register your interest in ordering.
On sale through our online ecostore very soon!
- Granville East PS wins Seed Harvest Spoon Grant
- APPLY NOW - Early Childhood Professional Development Grant Funding
- 2017 Charity Golf Day
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- Work With Us
- Early Years Learning - In the Preschool Garden
- Funding News
- My Permaculture Journey: change of life, change of perspective
- World Environment Day: Go Wild!
- Wonderful Water - Early Years Learing
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