My name is Tenisha I am an intern at Gateway Greening. I also worked in the Dig IT program last summer. I am senior at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy. This week we went to Clay Elementary School and did a couple of activities with kids. We couldn’t go outside because it was freezing cold with snow on the ground. So we read the kids a story about becoming a farmer, and most of them were very interested. The room was silent and all the kids listened. At the end they answered the questions we had for them. One of the questions was, “Why can’t we plant anything in our garden now?” All the kids answered, “ It’s too cold and the plants will freeze.” It made me smile to see that they all knew so much.
After the story we read, the students did an activity. We gave them some seed packs and each seed pack had a matching magnet. We also gave them a magnet board and told them to write warm on one side and cool on the other. We had to help a couple of them spell warm, it was cute. They all were excited for the next step. We asked the students to put the fruit or vegetable magnet under ‘Warm’ if they thought was a warm season plant or ‘Cool’ if they thought it was a cool season plant. Most of the kids knew where some of the magnets belonged. Others looked for the hints on the seed packets. I had fun giving them little clues and watching them try and figure out where the magnets went. The kids were having fun, they were happy and laughing. That made me feel good.
It was now time for us to see the third grade classroom. When we got there the students were already enthusiastic to see us. We read them a story and then asked them questions. The first question was “What is compost and why is it good for the plants?” One of the students said “Compost is dirty”. Then another student said “ It’s good for plants because worms live in dirt.” Then Mrs. Carolyn asked, “What other things live in compost?” A student answered fungi. So their teacher asked what is fungi. The student said “It’s a guy who’s fun.” Everyone laughed. We moved on to the next activity. Since the classroom was small and there wasn’t a lot of room we had the kids plant peas so they can grow pea shoots. We had them all guess how long it would take them to grow. The students were saying it would take two months and five months. So we went around the room and gave each student four seeds and a soil pod. We help the students plant their seeds in their pod and then we collected them. We had some funny conversations about if they ate a pea seed would peas grow in their belly. For next week, we are going to check on our peas and hope that they’re growing, and do some arts and crafts activities.
Being an intern for Gateway Greening and working with Punita each week at Mallinckrodt is constantly a rewarding and eye-opening experience. Each week I learn something new and the children are absolutely wonderful. They are always so eager to learn and share their ideas and knowledge; it is amazing to watch. This week focused a bit more on indoor activities due to the chilly weather. Punita spent time in each of the classes reading various intriguing yet educational books to the children. She always makes sure to pause throughout and ask questions to keep the children involved and to get there critical thinking skills going. The children really got into the books, especially the one related to dirt. It taught the students about different types of dirt and soils and all of the various components that it is made up of as well as how it is essential to our everyday lives and foods that we eat. In order to further educate the children and drive deeper the lessons she was teaching, she brought examples of different soils for the children to look at and feel.
Some of the students were lucky enough to get to experience their art class outside where they focused on creating mosaics. They used various artifacts of nature, such as small trunks or square pieces of wood, to use as a base for their creations. On their canvases, the children were able to choose from a variety of small colored glass marbles, squares, and various shapes to glue onto them. Despite the cold, the children were completely engrossed in their projects and were so proud of what they created. They all had huge smiles on their faces and really showed great teamwork and compassion by working together with one another and sharing materials to help their friends and neighbors to finish their art in time.
To finish off this fun and education-filled day, a fellow student’s mom came to teach a class about seeds. She provided the students with “mystery seeds” and they were able to guess where the seeds came from. Following this, they learned all about the components of seeds, where they come from, and how they grow. They were even able to create their own seed packets, the seeds provided by Punita, to be able to sell at the schools Farmer’s Market. The room sounded of laughter and enjoyment, and the students really got into the lesson. They were able to do hands-on learning and they were so engrossed in the subject they were learning about. I love being able to come to Mallinckrodt every Wednesday to see all of the progress that Gateway Greening is making with the children.
As an intern at Gateway Greening I have had the opportunity the past few weeks to observe Gateway Greening’s youth program in action at Mallinckrodt Academy of Gifted Instruction. Its beneficial impact on the children can easily be seen in various ways. It really encourages children to be involved in the learning process and it definitely increases their physical activity levels and overall knowledge. It may not be clearly evident, but garden learning can be related to almost any subject the kids are learning about. Not only are they increasing their academic performance and knowledge level but they get to have a blast while doing it!
Since it was pretty chilly out the last morning I was there we decided to try some indoor activities with the students by starting a book that focuses on community gardening and how it can positively influence neighbors and communities. While the children would have preferred to go outside, they really got into this book. Most of them were eager to share their opinions throughout the reading, as well as keep the book to finish on their own when we ran out of time. This shows their budding passion for knowledge and gardening combined. They were able to go out briefly towards the end of class and they helped to clean up the garden beds and build murals and sculptures purely from natural materials found around the garden. It was amazing to see how eager they were to help clean up and how passionate they became about their artwork. Many of them did not want to leave their artwork behind, but we were able to capture pictures of some of the artwork to keep its memories alive.
Currently, students from Washington University have been coming in and teaching students about various animals in nature and their relationships with one another. They are very relatable to the children and provide fun hands-on activities to really get their critical thinking going. The kids have shown much interest in the presentation and absolutely love the game they are able to play that coincides. It allows them to better understand different animal species and their role in the environment in relation to the various species they may share a niche, or community, with. The plan is to take this lesson and help expand it even further in relation to the garden and the various plants grown in it.
In order to bring a new perspective to the tasting of the food grown in the garden, Gateway Greening has brought in help from MU Extension to provide more education and involvement into the nutrition-related aspect of the garden. Instead of referring to it as “garden tasting”, the kids will now get to become “garden detectives.” They will be able to use their various senses when helping to determine what foods from the garden should be eaten and how to really decipher the different elements related to each of the different foods. The children all seemed very excited about this new opportunity and I am really intrigued to see how this will turn out! I have really loved being able to participate and observe all of the activities that Gateway Greening has been incorporating into Mallinckrodt Academy. It is amazing how much of a difference they are making, and it puts a big smile on my face to see the children having so much fun while learning and expanding their knowledge and skill levels.
-Kaitlin Cilufo, Graduate Student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and current Gateway Greening Dietetic Intern