Today, we took a seat with Melissa Stenhouse, the Program Coordinator at our Huntington Park Before and After School Program, as well as the Supervisor Support at our Greendale office, and talked about our Community Garden and why it is important.
So, why is Today’s Family so passionate about gardening?
“I think it’s really about getting the kids outside and connecting them to nature,” Melissa says. “It’s such a calm space…as soon as (the children) come outside their senses all come into balance. They’re listening for the birds and other animals or insects around them. They can feel the breeze on their faces. That’s something you just don’t get inside.
“Out here, things are so much more open-ended. You see much more imaginative play happening outside in the garden.”
What can kids learn from spending quality time in the garden?
“Problem solving skills! They’re learning how to be self-sufficient little gardeners and how to grow their own stuff.
“And there’s also a lot of observation happening, too. They learn a lot about their habitat. Right now, we have bunnies, and a blue jays nest. So, it’s really learning that a garden isn’t just a space for food; it’s a space for all beings.”
What elements of gardening get kids exited?
“The most exciting thing, I think, is that they can eat right out of the garden. I had them picking garlic mustard the other day and we made pesto out of it! It’s a connection made – this is a plant that grows here naturally and we can make something out of it!”
How does the gardening process differ as kids grow up?
“The preschoolers are really active (in the garden). They’re really great at weeding! They’re great at harvesting and taking it into the kitchen. They’re always super proud of it!
“The toddlers like to come out, look around – it’s more sensory based. We plant hardier things for them to engage with. The babies like…being out here, being able to feel things on the ground and listen to the birds.”
What can we look forward to in the Greendale Community Garden this year?
Early in the season, Melissa asked what the kids would like to have in the garden. “Pizza!” they said. “Okay, what is pizza made from?” Melissa asked them. “Tomatoes – we’ll grow tomatoes for the sauce. We’ll grow peppers, too, for our pizza.”
Perhaps the most exciting element of the garden this year will be the living sensory bin that Melissa has planned for our youngest gardeners. “(We’ll be planting) a lot of mint, lemon balm, some rosemary – things that they can touch and really get their hands on. It can be a calming experience for the kids as well.”