Now that parent/teacher conferences are behind us, and the weather is definitely cooling down (relatively speaking), many classes are at various stages of planting their gardens. It’s always an exciting time of year to start the process and then see what happens in the coming months. Our garden soil is prepped each year by Bill, our facilities manager, then the teachers and students take it from there. We have participated for years in a seed grant program through Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson. We apply for the seed packets, with the agreement that if we receive them we’ll submit documentation of our gardening projects. Additionally, we make a commitment to saving and distributing the seeds that form on the plants. Last spring classes made small packets of seeds with instructions, which were placed in the office for families to take home. One year we even received a photo of a sunflower one student grew in her back yard!
When it’s helpful, I offer to assist classes with their preparations for planting. On Wednesday I had the pleasure of doing this with the Preschool 3s. I was invited to their room and, right after their teacher finished reading a book about seeds, gave a brief lesson to the whole class. I showed them seed packets, strips of paper towel with marker dots an inch apart, and glue bottles I’d brought with me. I also explained the technique we’d be using: dabbing drops of glue onto the paper towel marks, then placing a tiny seed on each bit of glue. It’s a method we’ve used successfully for decades at the Seed. The advantage is that it’s easier for young children to space out the seeds this way, and prevents a whole handful of seeds (especially carrots, which are quite small) being dumped in one spot in the dirt. I noticed that doing it with this method also made the children slow down and study the seeds a bit more.
As the group dispersed for snack, we moved to a table where two children at a time joined me to start gluing the seeds onto the paper towels. They waited patiently for their turns, and were completely calm and focused the entire time. Learning how much to squeeze the glue bottle was a challenge most of them mastered. Even though picking up the tiny seeds tested their fine motor skills, each and every child persevered. A few students actually asked to do more than one strip. Amazingly, I was able to just watch most of the time, except to perhaps rescue an occasional seed that ended up glued to a small finger.
When I told their teacher what stellar work they’d done, she proudly smiled and said, “I’m not surprised.” I was definitely surprised, not by how well they did, but by how much they’d grown and changed since I first met them. I remember one child as a newborn baby in her stroller. Merely two years ago, many of them were in our Toddler 1s class, just starting out their Seed careers. How could they have acquired such complex vocabularies and learned to use their little fingers so skillfully in such a short time? I loved how seriously they took this work, somehow knowing the importance of preparing the seeds for their garden. There was a certain sacredness in this moment, helping them make a connection between themselves and the earth. In addition to planting actual seeds, perhaps this experience will also help to cultivate seeds of planetary stewardship.