Planting the Seed for a Better Future at Charlotte Street
17th May 2017
Guardian Early Learning Centre – Charlotte Street is a bright and friendly childcare centre in Brisbane. With a strong focus on sustainability at the centre coupled with their thriving garden, we chat to Centre Manager, Jo Ferguson to find out more about their inspiring garden and how gardening provides positive learning outcomes for children.
Tell us about your gardens at Guardian Early Learning Centre – Charlotte Street
Our garden is around a corner where it can become a space to get away from the hustle and bustle. It’s meant to be a quiet space, inspiring healthy bodies and healthy minds. We have a number of rectangular garden beds and large pots for growing our vegetables as well as a couple of work benches for seedling pots and an area to propagate the herbs. We currently have a small worm farm which we are looking to up-grade to a Hungry Bin and are in the process of getting a small water tank where the children can collect rain water. There’s a park bench and outdoor mat for children to rest, and different sized watering cans for a variety of age groups.
What are you growing at the moment?
As we harvest plants, we chop up the waste and dig it back into the garden beds. We are currently starting our winter crops now that the heat of summer has passed, so we’ve been planting things like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and peas. All year round we have lettuce, silverbeet, carrots, and beans growing in our garden. We’ve also grown beetroot, corn, pumpkin, cucumber, radish, watermelon, mint, rosemary, basil, oregano and we are working on pineapples too.
How are children involved with the garden?
The children are involved in every aspect of the garden, which includes not only planting seeds and seedlings, but caring for, harvesting and seed saving from the plants.
Not all the children are interested in every part of gardening, but that’s okay because you will find little experts in their chosen field. Some children love to water the plants and others may enjoy harvesting the most. We have one child who is our lettuce seed expert and they have the seed retrieval method down to a fine art. Some children use the garden for relaxation purposes and just enjoy resting there with a friend or enjoying a moment of solitude.
What are the children learning from this experience?
The benefits of the garden are endless. The main benefit is that the children have access to fresh organic vegetables free from nasty chemicals and, because the fresh veggies go straight from the garden to the kitchen, the nutrients in the produce is not lost.
Children are learning that they can grow good healthy food to fuel their bodies and their minds. The garden is a designated quiet space where children can come and relax. This may take the form of working with the plants, or sitting down with a storybook in the shade. They’re self-regulating when they come to the garden for some peace and quiet if other areas are over-whelming them at the time.
Children are learning about life cycles of plants and of insects and animals that visit the garden. Some of our bugs are good for the garden, and some bugs are not so good. Sharing their knowledge of the garden gives them a boost to their self-esteem and confidence when sharing with others.
What’s next for the garden at Charlotte Street?
I believe that the children will reinforce their learning by passing their knowledge onto others. As the Kindergarten children are the main contributors to the garden, they talk to the younger children about the plants and explain how to look after the garden.
Now that the garden has been producing for a while, the children have been seed saving so we can pass on seeds to families and other centres to encourage them to grow their own healthy foods. I think it’s important that our children use their knowledge to educate others of the benefits of gardening.
Why do you feel that sustainability is important?
The children are the future. If we don’t invest in the future, what chance does that planet have? That may sound dramatic but climate change is very real and I think everyone, including Guardian, would like to think that they can make a difference through sustainable practices. Hopefully these curious little human beings will have a first-hand understanding of healthy foods, healthy practices and healthy planet. When caring for others and the environment is just second nature, our little friends will hopefully lead that bright future that we are all hoping for.
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