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THE CHILDREN'S Garden
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THE CHILDREN'S GARDEN

THE CHILDREN'S GARDEN


Pat Roller, Children's Science Teacher

Pat Roller, Children's Science Teacher, created this webpage especially for her African teacher friends, Philip, Benard, Zedekiah, and others who will be joining them in pilot programs to improve math and science education for Africa's children ages 4 - 12.  This webpage provides materials to help teachers and their students create "The Children's Garden" on the school grounds.  It is used along with the webpage "First Lessons in Math and Science" which combines math and science in a meaningful 'hands-on' -' hearts-on' learning style.

Teachers who bring needed innovations to their schools need courage, faith, physical strength, and leadership attributes. These teachers work harder, longer, and their reward comes as they see their students become literate, critical thinking, problem solving, caring people.  Thank you. Education will truly lead to greater freedom and growth for Africa.  (My website address: www.free-energy-env-exp4kids.com)  Lessons are found by name in the menu on the left side of the home page.

THE CHILDREN'S GARDEN (Outdoor Classroom)  

AGES - Children ages 4 to 12   (Whatever the age, if the child has not done this, you start at the" FIRST LESSONS IN MATH AND SCIENCE" found on our website menu, then go to "THE CHILDREN'S GARDEN.") My website address is: www.free-energy-env-exp4kids.com

GOAL: With the help of their teachers, the children will be able to create a children's garden and/or outdoor classroom near their school building. They will be responsible for preparing the soil, choosing and planting the seeds, weeding the garden, watering and thinning the plants as needed, harvesting and eating food from their garden, and selling enough produce from the garden to buy seeds, fertilizer, and whatever else in needed to plant the next garden.

As the land is cleared for the garden a compost heap will be started to recycle plants which are removed.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this web page is to improve math and science in the curriculum. Children build "critical thinking and problem solving skills" through "high interest, fun," "hands-on  activities and experiments" in math and in science which begin to teach them "how our amazing planet works." 

A second purpose is to give teachers a practical guide as to how to create and operate "The Children's Garden."  The garden is the best tool in the teacher's tool kit for teaching all of the above.

FOCUS: The children will learn how to recycle plants, how to care for the soil and make it richer by composting plants and animal waste and returning this rich "humus" to the soil.  They will learn how to use the least amount of commercial fertilizer to make a productive garden. They will learn how to plant (nitrogen - fixing plants such as ground nuts or cowpeas which take nitrogen from the air and put it in the soil to make it richer and more productive. African soils are poor in nitrogen. Plants must have nitrogen to grow. They will learn how to rotate crops for the best benefit for the soil and the plants.

PROCEDURE:  Teachers will use the website page "First Lessons in Math and Science" as a beginning to "The Children's Garden" project.  Children will learn how to use their 5 senses to group, order,classify, and arrange groups of objects according to their properties. They will manipulate these objects to help build meanginful math skills.When these skills are well established, the children will be ready to begin "The Children's Garden Project." When the teacher reaches the experiments section of "First Lessons in Math and Science" these experiments and many others may be done inside the garden or outside in the environment.

SIZE OF GARDEN PLOT - In American schools the plots are usually small raised bed gardens with a class of students for each small plot. In African schools the teachers generally start with larger plots such as 45 meters x 45 meters because the need to grow food is so great.  Size does not matter so long as it can be taken care of.

CHILD LABOR LAW - In Africa,children may not do labor before age 12 outside the school.  As long as the children do their observations and experiments as a part of the math - science curriculum in the school, and do it during the school day hours, children may be involved in helping care for growing plants in the garden as they learn.

Here in Kenya land is being cleared for

This is a school project. The parents of the children should bring their tools and help the children dig out the plants and cultivate the soil to get it ready for planting. The plants which are removed are recycled and changed into rich humus in the compost heap which is created at that time.  They may also help the children now and then with weeding, etc.. When the soil  is ready, the children need to apply fertilizer and plant the seeds and cover them. From then on, it is their responsibility along with their teachers for it is the children's"Outdoor Classroom" a living laboratory for learning.  Each garden should become similar to a tiny agriculutral school as kids and their parents learn how to get the most food from small beginnings which build the soil. 

Recycling dug up plants in the compost heap.

Nothing is wasted. Plants dug up are recycled in the "Compost Bin" to create rich humus to return to the soil.


FINANCING IN IMPOVERISED AFRICAN SCHOOLS


Some African teachers cannot make gardens becuase they do not have money for start-up seeds and fertilizer. If the cost for this cannot be included in the fees the parents pay, then the teacher may apply to "CRIO Ministries International" for a small one - time only start-up grant.  From that point on the garden must produce enough produce to sell to pay for seeds and fertilizer for the next garden.  Some gardens do well enough to buy a few tools as well.  Children work the soil around the plants quite well using little forked sticks of wood. As time passes and they learn how to use less fertilizer, they may earn enough to buy a few
chickens to help with insect control. It can happen from "Small Beginnings" over TIME.


Bakura, Kenya students ready to learn.
Students in Bakura, Kenya - ready to learn.

HOW TO USE LESS CHEMICAL FERTILIZER

I open the row to the right depth.  Then I add a small amount of humus from the compost heap at the bottom. Last I add a very tiny amount of chemical fertilizer and mix it with the humus. Then I place the seeds on top of this mixture and cover them and press down.  In this way a very small amount of  "Compost Heap" humus and chemical fertilizer is right there where the seed needs it and where the roots will attach in it and send those nutrients through the plant to the leaves. The fertilizer is not as likely to be washed away.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF THE COMPOST HEAP - (Recycling Plants to change to rich humus.)

A compost heap is formed when you create a layer of torn up plant material and to it you add a layer of soil (1 to 2 inches or 2 to 4 cm) on top of the plants.  To the soil layer add a tiny amount of chicken or other manure or chemical fertilizer or both.Keep making layers until all the plants which could be recycled from digging up the first garden soil have been placed on the heap.  The soil contains many organisms which help break down the plant material.

Keep it moist at all times.

About once a month turn it to mix up the soil, plant material, fertilizer, manure.  You should see insects and worms at work as well as many bacteria you cannot see which are helping change the material into rich dark humus.  It may take up to 3 months.  You may build more than one heap at a time.  All plants, which you do not use, are recycled this way. In this way you slowly build the garden soil and make it more fertile.  Keep the heaps to a size which is easy to mix up frequently to speed up the decay of the plants.

Water Cachment System. Find the best place to put the barrels to catch rain water.

This one kind of a Water Cachment System in our back yard. If you don't have drains just place the barrels wherever rainwater flows best from the roof. Be sure to cover rainbarrels when they are full to keep children out.  This is one way to collect water to use on the garden plants when it does not rain.

IRRIGATION - During the long wet season you may not have to water the plants.  But if you do you will need to create a system to collect water when it rains to use when it is dry. We place 50 gallon barrels in the best places to collect rainwater from the roof. We keep them covered and take water as needed from them. When it rains,the rain barrels collect water from the roof.

If you live near a stream you may be able to carry water from the stream.  If you can raise the money you may be able to pump water from the stream should you decide to have a year-round garden.

PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES

Children will have many opportunities to use their "critical thinking and problem solving skills" as they seek ways to solve problems which happen in the garden. You can get good information from internet when you ask questions and do some research.  

INSECTS - They will learn by observing which insects are good and which are destroying their plants. Often they can pick off the insects and put their bodies in the compost heap or feed them to their chickens. Their skills as observer really work well here. Grasshoppers and crickets may eat a lot of leaves quickly but small children become experts at catching them with just a little practice.

OPPORTUNITIES - When children catch insects alive and whole they can begin to learn the parts of the insect.  My children state and describe each part while using their own body parts in a" rapping sing-song little bit of fun."  "It is fun", it is educational, and it helps kids to know the difference between an insect, and a non-insect like a sowbug or a spider.  When they
learn these characteristics of insects they will use this knowledge all their lives and never forget it.  Go to The Insect Rap" 

 Children gently remove the wings  as they learn insect parts.

Insect or not? Teach "The Insect Rap" below so kids know how to identify an insect.

Since commercial insect sprays kill all the insects and leave the poison in the plants for people to eat. We do not use these chemicals. The chemicals also build up in the soil and damage it for future gardens.


Instead we spray the leaves with soapy water top and underneath to make those leaves taste bad.  We also use hot pepper and water spray to make those leaves taste bad. We sprinkle a little wood ashes on the leaves. This clogs their breathing tubes and they die.

When possible, we put chickens in the garden for a while each day and they eat harmful insects as well as weeds and grass.

Other problems include too little or too much rain, hail storms, predators such as large birds and dogs. Children learn how to accept disappointment without losing hope. When plants are lost in a flood or a hailstorm, the children may be able to get some food from the dead plants and then recycle them to make the soil richer.  These things go with becoming nature's caretakers.  In time they will learn which plants have the best chance of surviving these weather events and they will choose to plant these plants.  It is all about observing then using creative problem solving to solve the problems.Should not this be what education is about?

When you practice the "Insect Rap" below make it fun. Say it slowly and act out with the children's body parts moving.  It is good for the teachers to practice this before teaching but don't let the kids see. They may laugh too hard at their dear teachers doing the rap. 


                                                           THE INSECT RAP
                                               

An insect is an organism with 6 legs and 3 main body parts."  (Standing children hold up 6 fingers, then 3 fingers to match the words as they say the words.)

"The 3 body parts are "the head", "the thorax" and  "the abdomen." (Put one hand on top of head, one on bottom of chin for head)  (For the thorax put one hand at top of chest and other hand at waist line. (For the abdomen, put one hand at waist line and one hand on rest of body to the top of thighs.)

"Most insects have 2 antennae, 2 pairs of wings, and a hard exoskeleton.(To make anteanna point with one finger above each eye and wiggle fingers.) (To make wings put hands on waist and holding there flop arms up and down or sideways like you are flying.) To describe the exoskeleton which covers the entire insect use hands to form an oval from head to toe of themselves. (Exoskeleton means outside skeleton.) Children have an indoskeleton. That means their skeleton is inside their bodies. The exoskeleton is shed anda new one forms to allow the insect to grow. Look for exoskeleton shells in the garden. While the new exoskeleton grows, the insect hides out because it is vulnerable.

"Stages of insect development include ......... the egg --- the larvae---- the pupa ---and the adult."  (For egg make a circle of two fingers.)  ( For the larvae move hand like a worm crawling.) (For the pupa (sleeping stage --- fold hands lay on chin, tilt chin sideways and close eyes.)  (For the adult, spread arms and lift both arms high in celebration.)

You have real live insects to work with and children are fascinated with using these skills in the garden.  Repeat this little "Rap" with them until they not only know what it says but some will take turns leading the group. When they are observing moving organisms in the garden you will hear them saying softly the rap and observe them counting off body parts after they know the insect rap well.

CHEMISTRY IN THE GARDEN

On my website menu there are three web pages on how to teach young children the first lessons in chemistry.  Chemistry happens in the garden all the time as plants interact with the soil, air, water, and sunlight.  Making soap is a fun chemistry activity which can be used in insect control as well as in hygiene (hand-washing after toileting and before eating.)  

Another important lesson is the chemistry of metal and rust.  Oxygen interacts with dirt and moisture on metal garden tools and rust begins to form as the metal is being broken down. You can see the rust eating the metal! You can teach the children to control this chemical reaction by washing their metal garden tools, drying them, and putting a little oil on them to protect them from oxygen. Store them inside a building where it is dry.

Ask the internet for a recipe for making homemade soap.  Find an easy one you can try and make a very small batch at first.You must follow the directions especially the correct measurements. I suggest you take a recipe to the market where the ladies are selling soap they made and ask them if the recipe would work with ingredients available there. They might even give you their recipe if they know you are a teacher of small impoverished children who need to learn to wash their hands to stop diseases which make them sick.  Be sure to protect your skin, and your eyes as this is a caustic chemistry experiment.




 
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