It was a drizzly Valentine’s Day. I love seeing the children coming through the door on February 14th, decked out in hearts, red clothing, and lots of sparkles, eager to deliver valentines to friends and teachers. It’s good practice for learning to read friends’ names, as handmade or store bought valentines are dropped one by one into each others’ decorated containers. All that excitement contained during a rainy day generates high energy. Other sweet things added to the day’s energy.
In the morning, one of our dads asked if he could access the side gate from the parking lot. As it turned out, their family purchased a load of flowers for their child’s classroom outdoor area. The flowers were delivered in celebration of their daughter’s fifth birthday, which happens to fall on Valentine’s Day. A truly special way to celebrate a child, it’s a celebration that will continue in the days to come, as the class places each plant in the ground, then observes all the blooming in spring days ahead. No doubt, the flowers will attract all sorts of visitors that will tie in nicely with their class bug study.
Another event that occurred on Valentine’s Day was a visit from a representative of the Arizona Department of Education, specifically the Farm to School and School Garden Program. She’d met Danielle recently while collaborating on revision of the Arizona Early Learning Standards. She was curious about the Seed and was not disappointed. As we walked around the school grounds, just before it started raining, each garden had a story. We talked about the toddler garden in its planter, at just the right level for children to see their growing plants, but not necessarily uproot them prematurely. When we stepped into the 3rd/4th graders’ outdoor space and saw their thriving kale and lettuce, I reported that they’d just had a salad celebration the day before with some of their produce.
The kindergarteners’ healthy tomato plants caught our eyes as we continued the tour. Next door we noticed the 1st/2nd graders’ robust garden with giant sunflowers, a forest of cilantro, and all kinds of vegetables and flowers. I explained to our guest that we’ve gotten better at harvesting and eating our produce. I added that sometimes, if there’s more food than a class can handle, the teacher will harvest and send produce home to share with their families.
As we rounded the corner to the south side of the building, where the balance of sunlight and shade is optimal, we saw four thriving gardens. The Preschool 3s have a big patch of pumpkin vines, sprouted from a Halloween pumpkin. When we came to the Preschool 4s garden, I told the story about their annual basil festival. Each spring the class plants basil that grows throughout the hot summer. In the fall, a new group of children harvests the basil, making it into pesto that is mixed with pasta for a delicious meal. Those children then plant a new crop of basil for the next year’s class. It’s a cycle of giving and receiving.
Our final stops on the tour were the Early 3s’ and PreK’s gardens. I explained to our guest that the Early 3s’ beautiful garden full of kale was spearheaded in the fall by one of our active grandmothers. She comes to school weekly to help the young preschoolers maintain their garden. It was next door in the PreK garden that we noticed the valentine birthday flowers, the perfect story to end our tour. Our visitor was in awe of the Seed’s program, and left full of questions and ideas. I have no doubt, through her work, our school will serve as a model that will nourish other children’s lives. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.