Starrett Early Learning Center’s Budding Green Thumb

BY AMANDA MOSES

The students at Starett Early Learning Center (ELC) are learning all about plants this spring. Their teachers have been reading plenty of books on the things that live in the garden, how to help plants grow, and so much more. Even some of the classrooms are covered in drawings, diagrams, and facts about plants.

In Ms. Amy’s class plants have taken over the room. There are plants on each of the windowsills, along with dozens of posters depicting the parts of a plant, and a giant construction paper replica of a tree.
To help the children get a more hands on approach, ELC Director, Susan Plesnitzer invited Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman, to teach them all about gardening. Her first lesson included a reading of “The Curious Garden,” which follows a little boy’s journey to transforming a small garden into a green oasis for his community.

During the reading, Roytman made sure to emphasize garden vocabulary, such as pruning, compost, wheel-barrow, watering can, trowel, hand rake, and more. She also made sure the students helped count the various flowers and characters in the book, since math is an important part in gardening.

Roytman ended her first lesson by showing the students a basil seedling. “This what a plant looks like beneath the soil, they have roots that spread out as they grow,” Roytman said. They each took turns smelling the herb and looking at its roots.

Roytman then explained that when they are planting basil into the soil, they might see bugs. Certain bugs, like red wiggly worms, help provide nutrients to the plants.

Roytman then proceeded to show the students a small container filled with worms that she will be using in the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC).

The following Tuesday, the students sat outside of the ELC and learned how to plant tomatoes, basil, peppers, and pollinator flowers inside of their school garden.

Roytman brandished her garden tools and had the children amend the soil with a hang rake. “This garden bed is like a pizza pie, so after we break up the soil we have to pat it down like we would pizza dough,” Roytman said while spreading the soil evenly.

She then divided the children up and took a stick and drew into the soil, small pizza-like slices. In each slice, the children were asked to plant tomato and pepper seedlings.

“What do plants need to grow,” asked Roytman.

Many of the children shouted in response, “Water and sunshine!” Roytman then showed the students the different flowers they were planting in the center. “These flowers, like the green plant Dusty Miller, are pollinator flowers. Now that means that they will attract monarch butterflies and bees to help our plants grow,” Roytman said.

Once their second session with Roytman was finished, they each told her what they enjoyed about gardening. Many of the children said they liked the pretty flowers. “I liked the yellow flowers the best,” Caleb said pointing at the freshly planted marigolds.

The ELC students will continue meeting with Roytman every Tuesday until the end of May.

Photos by Amanda Moses