It’s a cool autumn morning as kindergarten students at Quincy Elementary’s Pioneer Campus make their weekly walk to the school garden with their teacher Mrs. Cooper. Waiting to greet them is garden manager Kari O’Reilly, better known as Farmer Kari.
After warming up with some singing and stretching, Farmer Kari prepares the students for the day’s activity: planting garlic in the garden’s raised beds. In this hands-on lesson, the kindergartners not only learn how garlic starts its growth cycle, but also review the importance of sunlight, water, soil, and oxygen in plant health.
After a trip to the garden’s compost pile for a bucket of material, Farmer Kari breaks up a head of garlic and hands out the individual cloves. Students gather around the raised bed and gently poke holes in the dirt to place their garlic cloves into the compost-layered soil, patting each one into place with a little more dirt.
“How do they know which way to grow?” asks a student. “Can we water them now?” asks another. After filling up kid-sized watering cans, the students enthusiastically deliver water to the newly planted cloves.
Kindergarten is the "Year of the Garden" at all Plumas Unified School District (PUSD) elementary schools, and serves as a crucial introduction to the Outdoor Education program, an integral part of our curriculum. All PUSD elementary schools have on-site gardens where students of all ages participate in caring for the vegetables and flowers through the seasons of the school year. Garden managers oversee and educate each grade on appropriate tasks from harvesting tomatoes in the fall to planting zinnia seeds in the spring.
School gardens are more than just plots of land; they are vibrant classrooms without walls, fostering growth in both plants and students alike. Giving kindergartners garden time to learn about the growing cycle of food and flowers lays the foundation for subsequent years of Outdoor Education’s areas of study: insects, amphibians and reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, and the Feather River Watershed.
Focusing on nurturing "Mountain Kids" who are deeply connected with and knowledgeable about our local ecosystems, the Year of the Garden encourages our young learners to follow their inherent curiosity, an essential part of scientific inquiry, and plants the seeds for a lifetime of exploration and respect for our beautiful Plumas County environment.
Published December 13, 2023