An Exciting Year in the Johnson Garden

Posted by on May 9, 2017 | 0 comments

An Exciting Year in the Johnson Garden

Rick Harden is the Garden Coordinator at Johnson ES. Below is his account of the year so far and the progress that the Johnson Garden has made.

This year, the Johnson Garden has been busier than ever. And although we have a lot going on across the board, there is one area in particular I am excited to highlight this year: the kindergartners.

For several years now, I have been privileged to work with a particularly engaged group of teachers at Johnson. This year, the kindergarten teachers enlisted me, and committed themselves, to stepping up our efforts. They coordinate with each other and with me to bring the children in their classes out almost every Friday. This routine has enabled us to be more intentional about how we use our time in the garden, and has laid a foundation that we can build on as these young students progress through Johnson and the larger city school system. Having these fabulous students out to the Garden early on, and consistently over the course of the year, enabled us to engage them in academic lessons that
were tied into the classroom curriculum in a way that we are not always able to do. I prioritize making our Garden a welcoming and joyful space. Simple things like observing bees pollinating flowers and looking for bugs and worms are encouraged, especially for students and classes that are new to the Garden. I also encourage students to taste whatever is available and in season. Tasting things at such an early age creates curiosity and engagement that is nearly impossible to turn off. With the kindergartners, we were able to do these things, and then move on to talking and thinking about why certain bugs are so essential to the health of the garden. It is my sincere hope that having a basic understanding of gardening at such an early age plants the idea that growing and enjoying fresh food is something they have done and will do again.

What else has being “more intentional” really meant? It means regular conversations and exchanges with the teachers; opportunities for them to let me know what they are doing or an idea they have, and how I can help them facilitate their work in the Garden. For example, Mrs. Johnson wanted to read “Rosie’s Walk” (by Pat Hutchins) to her students as they walked around the Garden reenacting Rosie’s adventure. This particular book is a great resource for younger children to learn about prepositions. Using the Garden space enabled Mrs. Johnson to create a truly experiential lesson that her students will hopefully remember as they think about the meaning of words like across, under, over, past and through! This semester, when Mrs. Sokol asked about doing an activity related to bees, we were able to recruit my good friend and neighbor, Ellen Hickman, who raises honey bees, to speak to all 4 kindergarten classes. She talked about the importance of bees to our environment and our food systems; and again, we were able to make this lesson experiential. Ms. Hickman brought some of her own honey as well as 2 other varieties for the children to taste. The children now know, without bees to pollinate there would be no Garden.

For their tremendous work, all four Johnson Kindergarten teachers just received Golden Trowels from City Schoolyard Garden. These annual awards are for teachers who have embraced their Gardens and are utilizing them in unique ways. I am so grateful to the teachers and the administration at Johnson, as well as CSG and the broader community for allowing me to be here in the Garden, engaging this wonderful group of children, and hopefully making a positive impact on their education and their lives.