Exploring the Garden

P1050323The garden at Farrington is in full production! All week kids from Boston and Cambridge have come out to explore the garden in depth. In a session focused on growing, the kids are invited to think about gardening, plant seeds, and finally experience the garden through touch, smell, and taste. We always begin each session by talking about gardens: What kinds of things grow in gardens? What do plants need to grow? Some kids seem to be experts and tell of all sorts of tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and carrots growing in grandpa’s garden at home. Other kids aren’t so sure what they might find growing in the dirt. When asked, one boy yelled excitedly, “Doughnuts!” Well, we might not have a doughnut tree at Farrington, but it did make for an insightful conversation.

- “Doughnuts! I wish we had a doughnut tree in the garden. But how do you make doughnuts? What ingredients do you use?” - “Flour,” said another girl. - “And where does flour come from?” - “Wheat,” answered a young boy. - “And where do you find wheat?” - “In the garden!”

This conversation yielded an understanding that at some point nearly all the food we eat comes from the garden. Another group followed this pathway with bread. Where do we find bread? “At the supermarket!” Yes, but how does the bread get to the supermarket? Where does it come from first? Through these questions, we began to convey that the garden is the source of all our nutritional needs.P1050233

As the discussion concludes, the kids are transformed into gardeners, planting their own seeds to take home and plant wherever they choose. They get their hands dirty mixing together dirt, clay, and seeds to form seed balls that will sprout flowers when planted. And after their seeds are planted, we finally venture into the garden to explore what is already growing and ready for harvest.

Exploration in the garden begins at the mint bed, where the kids are encouraged to take and eat a leaf and try to identify it. Of course, they discover it is mint very quickly. “This smells like gum!” shouted one boy enthusiastically. From there they are invited to touch the leaf of a zucchini plant. “It’s so rough,” is the common reply. The tasting then begins with lettuce, spinach, green beans, chives, carrots, and an occasional tomato. Gabby introduced herself on Tuesday with “I love all food that is healthy, I’m basically a vegetable lady.” She thoroughly enjoyed the garden and loved tasting all the vegetables “I love it here! Can I have another?” She asked over and over again with the chives and green beans.

Of course, not all kids that come to Farrington share this vegetable enthusiasm. While some put green beans in their mouths and make faces of disgust, remarkably almost all do actually try the green bean. The kids are surprised to find that fresh spinach is quite different than cooked spinach, and ask “this is where salad comes from?” when trying the lettuce. Strawberries and black raspberries were the favorites earlier in the summer, but now the blackberries are coming into harvest are sure to be popular. We can’t wait till the tomatoes and peppers are ready for harvest too!