Gardening plants seeds of learning
Contact: Rene Abadie
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HAMMOND – At Woodland Park Early Learning Center in Hammond, the seeds of learning are being planted in pre-K and kindergarten students – in a very literal sense.
In an on-campus greenhouse and a forthcoming garden, the four and five-year-olds are learning the basic concepts of math, science, nutrition, responsibility and that all important characteristic of “working well with others.”
The project is the brainchild of Southeastern Louisiana University education professors Colleen Klein-Ezell and Camille Yates in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Called “Cooking Up a Storm,” because the initial concept was to teach children a nutritious approach to eating while hunkering down for a hurricane or other emergency, the service-learning project was funded by a University of Louisiana System service learning grant.
The concept expanded, however, as the university faculty, the school’s principal and teachers, and university students involved in the project recognized the potential to teach the kids other basic learning skills. Prior to the planting, the students read stories in the classroom, learning how seeds germinate into plants. Through the grant, resources and books about gardening and how to integrate it into education were purchased for the students and teachers.
“Let’s count the plants,” Jailee Hollars of Loranger says to her two young students in the greenhouse as she incorporates simple arithmetic into their session. “One, two, three…” the Southeastern senior education major counts the budding plants with the kids.
“It’s a wonderful source of ideas for ways to engage children in projects they will enjoy while learning such a variety of concepts,” Hollars said. “It’s good for us as students as well; we spend a lot of time in classrooms, and it’s great to get outside and remember just how inquisitive and interesting these kids are.”
Klein-Ezell said the project is a fun way to get kids involved in basic education, while providing valuable service-learning opportunities for student teachers to gain experience working with young children. Each child – and there are approximately 500 at Woodland – has his or her own plant to water and maintain.
Eventually the flowers, vegetables and herbs will be transplanted to a nearby garden. The complex also includes a storage shed, potting benches and a raised planter. Klein-Ezell praised the Hammond Kiwanis Club, whose members spent the better part of a Saturday piecing together the pre-fabricated greenhouse.
“The greenhouse is not wheel chair accessible, so we added the raised beds so students who were in wheelchairs would be able to participate,” said Klein-Ezell. “We want it to be an inclusive garden where all children can be involved.”
“I enjoy any activity where children are actively involved in learning,” said Hollars. “Above all, I love seeing the kids just get dirty. So many children have no clue what it is to dig in the dirt and learn through exploration.”
The culminating activity of the project will be to create a cookbook – entitled “Cooking Up a Storm” – that will include nutritional recipes submitted by teachers and students. Emphasis will be on recipes that do not require electricity or power for periods when storms or hurricanes threaten the area.
“We’re really excited about this project,” said Klein-Ezell. “Most importantly, the kids are excited about it.”
She envisions the effort becoming more of a community project, in which groups and individuals will volunteer their time and talents to ensure the success of “Cooking Up a Storm.” For more information, contact Klein-Ezell at Colleen.Klein-Ezell@selu.edu or by calling 985-549-5279.
Southeastern Louisiana University education major Jailee Hollars of Loranger counts the plants with students at Woodland Park Early Learning Center in Hammond. Counting with here are Lucas Slade and Malavia Jackson.