The seeds we had planted our very first week are now growing into something quite remarkable. New connections and deeper relationships have formed. Roots have expanded, forming new connections as they’ve grown intertwined to each other and now to the land, while leaves have reached to the sky, spreading like the wings of a bird setting off for a new horizon. This season’s Farm Sprouts have now contributed to another tradition in our seasonal cycles at the farm, sowing mammoth sunflower seeds in newspaper pots, caring and checking for them as they began their lives in our greenhouse, and transplanted them to their garden home through the fall. Come fall, Farm Sprouts will help harvest the giant heads so the seeds can dry and they can once again carefully remove the seeds for planting again the next spring. Since our very first pilot spring season of the program in 2016, Farm Sprouts have done this work to grow their very own flowers, appreciated by our pollinators in the summer months and sharing seeds as a food source for the birds as they prepare for winter.
The benefits of time in the garden for young children are great. Time spent engaging in gardening and growing encourages children to eat healthier and exercise, fosters the development of scientific inquiry practices, relieves stress, builds resilience and confidence, and has positive impacts on mood, focus, and memory, among other benefits. Free and open time to play, explore, collaborate, discover, and wonder is essential for healthy, whole child development. And it is not just the children who experience the benefits! The adults working with the children experience them as well. Just as the Farm Sprouts teachers how they felt, how they were challenged, and what they learned from their time in the garden this week!
As Farm Sprouts arrive, parents and teachers support them in signing in and voting, an important part of our welcome. This week, Farm Sprouts signing in by tracing worm trails and voting for butterfly or worm. Worms were definitely a focus this week with the soggy soil and conditions we’ve had this week. We made many worm discoveries and asked a great many questions, investigating the answers as we experimented with our ideas in a wide variety of ways. We’ve also been thinking about plants and their parts with flowers being of special interest. Insects, isopods, snakes, and frogs are other creatures we’d like to inspect closer and likely our forest adventures this coming week will provide us with opportunities to do so! We stamped insects in preparation for threads of insect study soon to come.
We had the good fortune of hearing a “cheep, cheep” sound coming from the incubator in our indoor classroom. A chick hatched during our afternoon program! Ms. Sam also stopped us to share the unhatched egg from the nest we had been monitoring. The young birds fledged the nest, leaving it empty and providing us the opportunity for a close inspection. We even stumbled on an egg-shaped puddle!
On our way to the garden, we stopped in the greenhouse to pick up our sunflowers. We were delighted at how they’ve grown! Before entering the garden, we sang Raffi’s “In My Garden” and acted out some of the steps required in the transplanting process. Digging, in particular, has been a very popular activity this season and we’ve been practicing for weeks to do just that in order to sink the roots of our sunflowers in the land. Adolph and Ginger Meyer, who purchased the land in 1951 would certainly appreciate this Farm Sprout tradition. In the 1980’s, the Meyer’s set up a foundation, called the Americana Foundation, and donated 60 acres of the farm to Michigan State University with the aim of preservation of the land and education. Visit here to learn more.
Out in the garden and following transplanting, Farm Sprouts dug and built lakes and streams, investigated worms, hunted for insects, engaged in process art, discovered strawberry blossoms and munched strawberries, enjoyed reading through field guides and sharing in stories, and documented their thinking and discoveries in their journals.
As Margaret Atwood once said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”