By Thea Klein-Mayer
One of the highlights of my senior fellowship is interacting with elementary schoolers.
Jack is in Kindergarten and identifies as a farmer.
Kirsten (4th grade) explained to me the sugar content of various sodas and how this knowledge was causing her to reconsider her beverage choices.
2nd graders celebrated their bountiful lettuce crop.
3rd graders knew about germination already.
5th grade planted fourteen different varieties of peppers and tomatoes without mixing or confusing them.
There are moments when I’m completely blind-sided by the ability and knowledge of these kids. Maybe it is because as neither a trained teacher nor a parent I’m just out of the loop when it comes to the capabilities of children. Or maybe it is because of other teachers in their lives, making them the curious, bright kiddos they are. The more activities I facilitate, the more I realize that my role is to expose children to gardening, healthy food, and stewardship with the emphasis on exposure rather than instruction.
They, however, are teaching me.
In elementary school, no one says “I’ve never done that” and therefore “I can’t.” No one shies away from sticking their hands in the soil. No one references the greenness of thumbs. They are willing and confident. They instruct me to try even if I’m not certain.
In 4th grade, we planted beans and corn in clear containers to watch as they germinated. After all had germinated, the class decided to let the sprouts grow and so we carefully transplanted them into larger pots. I learned how when students have input their engagement skyrockets—not so different with adults.
In 5th grade, when our erosion experiment failed structurally, I was reminded of the importance of testing demonstrations a bit more thoroughly! When students wrote their take-aways, however, many had understood the point of the experiment, despite what I felt were mediocre results. They encouraged me not to sweat the small stuff and that messes can be cleaned up quickly.
There is so much potential to learn everyday from everyone we interact with. I look forward to reviewing this lesson with each garden class that I “teach.”
Read more about the Highland County School Garden here.