By Cosette Kehoe

There is something exciting about springtime. Maybe it is the promise of warmer, brighter days ahead, trees budding, the flowers blooming or the refreshing smells that summer has to offer. My favorite memories growing up were of climbing trees and digging in the garden. My mom was an avid gardener. We lived on an acreage with extensive perennial and vegetable gardens. I learnt at an early age how to cultivate the soil, plant seeds, weed, water and watch. It was always so exciting when the first signs of life would pop up. 

When I became an ECE I brought my passion of gardening to the center. I first introduced dirt to our sensory table, where the kids could smell the fresh earth and feel it between their fingers. It sparked imaginations as we added trucks and bulldozers that made roads for our new city. We added fake trees, then scaped it with rocks, all while dinosaurs roamed the earth. Every day it evolved into something new and exciting.   We had discussions on other uses for dirt and they made a list of what they wanted to try and grow. The kids made some great observations, each seed was a different size, color or shape. They patiently counted each seed as they planted them in the pods, using their fine motor skills as they planted the small seeds. The plants were diligently watered (AKA flooded) and checked daily on the progress. I was amazed at the sense of pride, responsibility and ownership they had for their seedlings. I still remember coming to work in the mornings and the kids were all lined up anxiously waiting for me to come into the room. They knew that when Cosie arrived we got to check our plants to see what was growing and help water. It was a beautiful and exciting moment when the first sprouts appeared. The kids jumped and squealed with excitement. As the parents came in, they would bring them over to our greenhouses and show them the progress that was sprouting. Many of the parents would comment that they loved their child’s enthusiasm and it inspired them to start growing a garden at home. I also had some parents say “I never thought that _____ was old enough to even consider their help while gardening”. It’s amazing how capable and competent our little tots can be when we take our own limitations off of them. Soon they began to think outside of the box and every snack and mealtime the questions always pondered…. “Cosie can we grow this in our garden?”. In a few short weeks we grew everything in sight; avocado, dragon fruit, pomegranate, celery, every herb you can think of, until the center started to look like a mini rainforest.  

That summer we had garden boxes made for outside so that we could take our seedlings outdoors with us. Not only were the kids learning, but I was learning too. Little did they know that taking an interest in gardening would help them in other ways. Dirt has germs and bacteria that support and strengthen our immune systems. It encouraged healthy eating habits as they were excited to try what they grew, created self-esteem, sense of responsibility caring for a living thing. It sparked awe and wonder as we learned about all the insects that lived in the soil and made way for larger discussions such as, plants like to drink water not swim in it and although our plants love the backyard, they don’t necessarily like going down the slide and playing in the sand box. “Needless to say, the only thing that grew that summer was our love for the outdoors, mud play and strong bonds with friends.” 

Each year and every new class I strive to create a space for learning, messy play and wonder with dirt. Together we bring nature from outside, into the classroom and explore. It’s a dirty job…..and we’re having fun doing it!