Children schooled in gardening

Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The smell of freshly turned earth; the feel of wet soil through the fingertips; the laughter of children; the warmth of the early morning sun — one thing was clear if you looked at this daycare class on Tuesday morning: it wasn’t your typical preschool lesson.

Helper at A Merry Go Round, Karlee LaGrappe (left), helps children scoop up dirt for their planting lesson at the daycare/preschool. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

“We do things a little differently here,” Jessica Walker, owner of A Merry Go Round Daycare/Preschool in Nederland, said. “I don’t believe in sitting behind a desk all day long; I believe in creating a hands-on opportunity.”

That hands-on learning was on display as the various 4 and 5 year olds in the class listened and responded to clear prompts from Walker about basic gardening like plants, seeds and soil.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“What do plants need to grow?” Walker asked the beaming children.

“Sun!” the children called in near unison.

“Where do you plant them?”

“In the soil!”

The children at A Merry Go Round gather around to learn the basics about planting. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

The children were planting tomato plants in small buckets that they would be able to take home after a short growing period. Walker said this type of activity engaged both the kids and their families more in their everyday lessons at the daycare/preschool.

“There’s a quote I live by,” Walker said. “‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.’”

According to Walker, it was this mindset she tried to use in teaching children and in engaging their five senses.

One of the children at A Merry Go Round plants her very own tomato plant. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

“We’ve been learning about plants for the past two weeks. We are on a spring lesson about planting,” Walker said. “Each child will have their own bucket to plant. And they’ll learn things like when to feed plants and about the different types of plants.”

Walker said they try to do these gardening courses every year; and, if the children’s smiles and raised voices were any indication, it was a popular course at that.

“We have parents who ask about this and when it’s happening,” she said.

Walker has been the owner of A Merry Go Round for 11 years.

“I feel God put me here to do this,” she said. “My heart is for young children.”

Walker said the key to successfully engaging children as young as those in her class and in keeping their interest was to make the whole thing fun for them.

Jessica Walker (left) helps one of the students scoop up dirt for their potted plant project. (Lorenzo Salinas/The News)

“You have to be silly and laugh. Sing and do craft projects like these,” she said.

And, it appeared that that approach was indeed a success for the young gardeners at the school.

“I like this,” Bekym, 4, said after placing her potted plant on the sidewalk.

“I like school and going outside. I like going home, too,” Tucker, 4, said next to her.

“We get to plant by ourselves,” Zoey, 5, said about their very green accomplishment.

A Merry Go Round is located on 12th Street in Nederland. One may even be able to see some freshly potted plants as you drive by.