BLOOMINGDALE – Cherry tomatoes, lima beans, snap peas. Those are just a few of the crops that will grow in the coming months at the new Community Garden at Community Consolidated School District 93’s Early Childhood Center in Bloomingdale.
With spring in the air, the youngest and oldest students in the district came together May 8 to add some life to the garden.
Assisted by eighth-graders from Bloomingdale's Stratford Middle School, the center's preschoolers planted class-grown seedlings in the garden and learned about food chains.
“I loved it,” said Paige Lyons, a preschooler at the center.
The idea for the garden came when designs were being developed for the center building, which opened at the start of this school year. Superintendent Bill Shields brought the idea to center Principal Kim Hefner, and she jumped on the opportunity to provide her students with an authentic learning experience.
About 370 students from both schools worked on the project, and the groups said they enjoyed spending time together.
Preschooler Josephine Techter said she had fun with the eighth-graders who helped her.
“They were good,” she said.
The eighth-graders had fun spending time with the district’s littlest students as well.
“They were adorable,” Lexandra Prestidge said.
In addition to helping the preschoolers plant their crops, the eighth-graders also taught them about food chains, which they learned about this school year as part of an ecology science unit.
This meant the older students had to come up with lesson plans to teach their young partners.
Developing the plans involved figuring out a way to share the information with preschoolers in a way they could understand, eighth-grader Alexis Copeland said.
For Janari Fisher, it was interesting to see how the preschoolers think.
And for eighth-grade teacher Liz Bruning, it was great to see her students act as leaders.
“The bright spot was watching the eighth-graders take on that leadership role,” Bruning said.
By being able to teach the concepts they had learned, the older students demonstrated a deeper level of understanding of the material, eighth-grade teacher Jill Kirby said.
Beyond what they learned from their eighth-grade partners, center students also received other educational opportunities through the garden project.
In class, preschoolers learned about plant parts and what they do, preschool teacher JoAnn Murphy said.
They also had the unique opportunity to see the garden be built outside their building, and now that the seeds have been planted, they can continue to keep an eye on the garden, she said.
The garden will be tended by center families during the summer, allowing for learning to continue. The families will be welcome to take crops home with them that mature or donate them to local food pantries, Hefner said.
The hope is to continue collaborative learning across grade levels through the garden. In order to develop more long-term relationships between the preschoolers and middle-schoolers, planting projects may pair sixth-graders with the center’s students in the future.
“We’re going to reflect on our experience, and we’d really like to capitalize on the relationship-building,” Hefner said.