The question asked every time an appointment is set- what do we do with 25 kids in the garden- is simply answered- put them to work. While the answer is simple, implementing the answer is not. A little planning, introducing, and explaining goes a long way.
25 Kids and Me
1. Clear introduction.
Upon arrival I like to gather the masses and make some clear introductions: to myself, to the garden, to the expectations and the basic garden etiquettes. It is important to set boundaries regarding the use of tools, hoses, and fertilizers as well as defining walking paths and general safety.
2. Divide and conquer.
I like to put together teams: water, soil, plant. Water team ensures the plants get a drink, apply fertilizer if needed, and are careful to keep their eye out for beneficial insects (which they will tell us about). Soil teams handle aerating, applying mulch, and compost turning- they are always on the look out for interesting decomposition and soil beneficials. The plant team is all about plants- those we intended and those we didn't.. harvesting and weeding, always watching for evidence of a pest!
3. Team leaders.
It is important to involve any adults that may be on hand; parents, teachers, extra staff. They are learning right along with their classes.
4. Finally- come and share!
The final moments of garden time are dedicated to sharing our experiences. What did you spot? A spider in the peach tree? Earthworms in the compost? Maybe chewing marks on a leaf? What did we harvest? A radish? Maybe things were not quite ready. Share something you learned or a question you thought of. Maybe you learned the name of a weed you pulled. This brings a sense of fairness to the reality- not everyone gets to do the same thing each time.
5. Next time rotate the teams to a new responsibility!
Give the opportunity to learn each area of garden care and responsibility. Gardens are always growing and changing, offering so many opportunities for learning. Keep them engaged and looking forward to the next garden visit.
Now, you may be asking where I fit into this plan? I am moving and rotating through each and every team- sometimes answering questions, calming squabbles, and directing attention to things they may not realizing they are seeing (like a ladybug eating aphids). The first few visits can be a bit stressful, but they get the hang of it in no time and before I know it teachers are taking on the gardens with very little outside assistance (and that is the goal- independence).
The final question- does it work with less than 25? Sure. How do you think I gardened with my own kids?