Two weeks ago, LI Greenmarket Director Bernadette Martin, led a very successful gardening program with Long Beach District Pre-K classes.
Five of the district's classes visited the numerous planted gardens at the Nike Alternative School in Lido Beach. As they toured the outdoor raised beds, vertical pallet planters, and indoor hydroponic growing systems, students were able to see first-hand the many varieties of vegetables and plants that can be grown in their own backyards.
"The more hands-on exposure for these kids, the better. We picked stalks of lavender, rubbed them in between our hands to press the plant, and then the kids were able to take big deep breaths of the lavender. The smiles were endless," said Bernadette. Lavender is an aromatic herb that is used frequently for calming the mind and body- a perfect smell for excited, young boys and girls.
The children tasted herbs, saw how the plants were watered, weeded, and cared for- but most importantly, were able to truly interact with what they were learning about. Being immersed in a garden environment and learning the skills of farming and plant care teaches countless lessons. Children learn about the science of what a plant needs to grow: the sun, the water, the space and health in the soil. They learn about process and patience while weeding and plant harvesting. Kids learn how to identify bugs and about infestation, how to tell if a plant is in stress, and when to know if its time to pick. That is just the start of the logistical side of things.
The opportunity children have to work with vegetable gardens also opens the doors to the topics of nutrition and heath. The moment that a child can taste and eat a vegetable or herb that they themselves watered or took care of, the direct connection of Farm-to-plate is made. The idea of the going to the store for their food can be substituted- and they discover that a world of good foods can come right from their own planters and hard work. That type of opportunity for children needs to be much more accessible for our children in this part of Long Island.
LI Greenmarket acts as consultants, planning and executing the Gardening Program at NIKE Alternative High School, under the Long Beach School District. This program helps to educate students, offers internships at the Kennedy Plaza Farmers' Market, and contributes to the practical and vocational importance of growing food in our local Long Island community. It is the only program of its kind in the District. Show your support for the program and our district and please share.