Leila Rich wrote:Randomly, I've done some gardening stuff at a Montessori preschool.
In any school environment, it's quite a challenge getting systems going fast enough that kids stay interested.
Preschoolers take that to a whole new level Gardens tend to happen at a much slower pace than little kids do!
I won't make any suggestions yet, it's Question Time!
How much freedom do you really have have to 'do stuff'; and are you confident that the school's expectations and yours match? Sounds a bit retentive, but things can be so easily misunderstood.
That's a difficult, steep-looking space. Would you say it was?
While the photos give an idea, what size do you think the space is?
What's the building at the end? Is it used often? How about the path?
The soil looks clayey from the photo (yay!), but how would you describe it?
You say 'edible plants'. Does that include edible for insects? It could be ideal.
On that note, do you know if the school might have a policy or attitude about encouraging stinging insects? It's something to keep in mind.
Actually, could you post photos of the other areas for context? If this is the fiddliest area, that would be great!
John Polk wrote:As Leila implied, waiting 90+ days for a tomato to ripen is probably far beyond their attention span.
Perhaps some pretty flowers that attract butterflies to keep their attention while the 'snacks' mature.
Renate Haeckler wrote:Strawberries are always a hit with little kids. You can plant them now, mulch them in well then let the kids forget about them until the berries are ripe, or study the interesting insects and worms that are drawn to the mulch.
You can do the whole sprouting seeds thing in the meantime, let them try to sprout fruit seeds from their food, plant a horseradish root, try some ginger or sugar cane if you can find some fresh enough, grow carrot tops or celery middles... I home schooled my kids and they had endless fun growing stuff. Oh yeah, bean sprouts are fun too but some bean sprouts (like kidney beans) are toxic, so make sure you let them eat only the ones that are safe.
Sunflower seeds are fun and preschools seem to love the sunflower theme. They grow so fast that you can almost see them grow. I'd do the 10 - 15 foot kind like Mammoth.
They could also learn plant propagation like begonia leaves, violets, sweet potatoes, rooting willows, etc.
IMHO raised beds are the way to go - don't want their hard work trampled by little sisters or brothers or something. If not raised beds, if there is a brushy area to harvest you could make a wattle fence - weaving is probably something they could manage.
Ken Peavey wrote:When I was a kid it was always a treat to eat something in class. For fun I'd eat the pencils!
In 4th grade we did an experiment with peas. We put seeds and soil in cups, sprouted them, every kid had a marked cup. When they were a couple inches high, some aphids that had been ordered arrived. We all got 4 aphids, let them loose on our pea. I may have eaten a couple of them. We measured and recorded the height, any changes we observed, and counted aphids. Within a few days, many of the aphids had migrated to just a few plants. As a science lesson, it was pretty safe. The plants disappeared when the experiment was over.
While this sort of experiment might be a bit much for preschoolers, the notion of starting seeds in cups would expose the kids to the growing cycle from start to finish. Started at the right time will give the garden a head start when it is time to transplant. Quick growing plants (for attention span) would be in order. Edibles will be appreciated by the kids. Peas and beans, are prolific. Root crops are a nice surprise, I'm thinking radish, turnip and carrots. Leaf crops such as mustard for a taste sensation, all kinds of lettuce greens can make an attractive garden to satisfy the administrators.
Some herbs can add another level. Rosemary and thyme can be grown from cuttings (lesson here), but are kinda slow. These plants offer aroma as well as a taste experience. Something faster would be mint, basil, and cilantro. The kids would love fennel.
Next up is flowers. Gotta have more aroma. Some are edible, but it would be your discretion to explain what is and is not edible, and not to wander the neighborhood eating the neighbors azaleas. With the flowers you can talk about bees, pollination, and where fruit comes from.
Put all this together, you end up with a polyculture.