At the beginning of the season, we talk with Farm Sprouts about how they are a part of our farm community. We discuss some of the ways they will help contribute to the community over the course of the season, which in the spring means care of the animals with the many babies we’re welcoming, as well as planting seeds and tending to young plants. Last week, Farm Sprouts planted sunflowers which become a stopping place for pollinators over the summer and a source of food for the birds in the fall. As Farm Sprouts engage in meaningful activities as a part of our community, they learn about the basic needs of plants and animals for survival and begin to develop an understanding of how our local plants, animals, and humans are connected to form an ecosystem. The roots of empathy can be found in caring for other living creatures. In early childhood, care of plants and animals is a natural and engaging way to grow these roots.
This week we explored birds and eggs for they seem to be calling out to us as we adventure about the farm and we can’t help but notice and wonder about their activities. That means a trip to the chicken coop was in store for the day!
To sign in, Farm Sprouts scratched the first letter of their name in chicken feed. They also returned to watercolors to create eggs and what would become feathers for wings. More on this process art project will take place next week.
We gathered to share some thoughts and questions about eggs and sang a welcoming name song to each Farm Sprout based on Laurie Berkner’s “Pig on Her Head.” It was silly and we laughed a lot! Plus, we had the chance to practice learning everyone’s name!
On our way to our Invitations to Play, we went on a short birding hike. We discovered ducks, geese, and a killdeer bird sitting on a nest with four eggs. We marveled at how her camouflaged eggs were as a result of the speckled colors brown and tan colors of the shell in contrast to the soil and wood chips. We had to look very closely to spot them! We also noted the mom was very protective of her nest. We had to resist the urge to step too close!
This week we spent time journaling in the Children’s Garden, worked in a planting-themed sensory table with seeds, soil, pots, daffodils, tweezers, and garden tools, and collaborated as a family of birds to build a kid-size nest. We’ll be revisiting our nest next week.
Next, we visited the chicken coop, peering into the nesting boxes and touring inside the coop. We observed the hens and roosters strutting about the pastures. They are true free-range chickens! We were able to visit some of our other animals as well.
For snack, we munched on tomatoes and cucumbers. Some Farm Sprouts had a very strong aversion to tomatoes, yet we encouraged them to use their senses and to hunt for seeds, maybe tasting if they were curious. Some Farm Sprouts were surprised they liked these sweet, little tomatoes!
To conclude the day, we stopped at the greenhouse to check on our sunflowers, noting they many had sprouted. We could identify the shell still encased around some of the first leaves. Before we know it, we’ll be transplanting them to the educational garden.
“Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It’s the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And someone else’s pain is as meaningful as your own.” – Barbara Kingsolver
To learn more about developing empathy, visit MSU Extension “Children and empathy: Self-regulation skills”