What is a community? This question may seem like it has a quick, simple answer, but when you really think about it what exactly does it mean to live in a community? What is our role in it? Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman, posed this question to her third grade class. Many of the children answered by saying a community is a group of individuals living together and interacting through their various roles. After discussing the concept of a society, Roytman then asked the class to apply this idea to the garden community. “Who are the characters living in the garden? What are their roles in the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom ( UGC)?” Roytman inquired.
As they pondered Roytman’s questions, the group of eight and nine year-olds gathered for their latest garden lesson on a fish themed carpet within the Aquaponics Laboratory at PS 346. The children then proceeded to list various garden characters such as birds, bees, butterflies, vegetables, plants, fruit, worms, and gardeners. “Each of these characters relies on each other for something. They all play very important roles, so now everyone will receive a piece of paper with a character on it,” Roytman said.
Some students received their character labels and on the opposite side was a description of their role. For example, a child was given a card with the word bee on it, on the back their role would be pollinator. Roytman continued the lesson by reading a story about a little boy walking through a garden observing how each character affected the garden environment and in turn how the climate affected them. During the autumn the story’s protagonist (a young gardener) noticed a spider catching a cabbage moth in its web. The gardener thanked the spider because the moth was eating his cabbages, and proceeded to say “Spider, you helped my garden. I’m so happy you’re in my garden community.”
In the story, the student learned that the cold weather meant that there would be no bees or butterflies because the flowers were not ready to blossom until the spring. But there were still characters looming around in the garden during the cold season. There were worms that would wiggle out of the ground and eat the old, fallen vegetables creating compost. The compost then provides nutrients in the soil so that the flowers and vegetables can grow in the spring.
While Roytman read the story, the children raised their hand when their character appeared in the tale. One little boy laughed and pretended to eat a bug since his character was a spider. After the story was over, the students filled out a worksheet describing the roles certain characters played in the garden.
The fun lesson ended with yummy carrot snacks and a group picture depicting all of the characters within a garden community.
Photos: Amanda Moses