COUNTRY FUN

~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

June 7, 2016
by countryfun
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Anyone Want to Make a Mess?

All I have to do is ask if “anyone wants to make a mess?” and my young group comes running.

2016_06_07_IMG_0171The seed boxes for our mixed lettuce and kale germinated so well that we have a lot of leggy seedlings. Not the greatest for planting out directly into the garden, so we needed to thin them out and repot in 6 packs. (For “we” I mean “me” for the actual repotting. These seedlings are needed for food this summer and fall. Little hands love to help, but are not always gentle.)

2016_06_07_IMG_0172Thinning lettuce is a perfectly messy inside activity for a rainy day. (Kale is more pull up and replant, so no real mess.) Doing this inside means my young learners can get their hands into the dirt for a different purpose, put magnifying tools to work, ask lots of questions, and explore a plant’s structure (Roots on a lettuce seedling are many and easy to explore.),2016_06_07_IMG_0175 all while coming and going throughout their morning play.

Seedlings into the 6-packs and ready to head back under the grow lights. We’ll be monitoring to see how they do. A good bit of counting: 1 tray, 6 packs in 1 tray with 1 pack left over, 1 seedling per cell. 7 x 6 means we have a lot to count. 42 seedlings repotted.

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Then it was time to pick up our mess and get ready for lunch.

It also means we have fresh mini/micro greens for our lunch salad after pinching off the roots, rinsing and spinning dry. Spinning vegetables dry is always fun, great muscle work and allows for natural exploration of centrifugal force. 2016_06_07_IMG_0176(The roots were added to the compost pail.)

May 23, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on 2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

2016 Garden Off to Good Start…….

Last year I received a grant from Opportunity Alliance for extending the gardening season. With it we built a seedling grow station, a small hoop house and purchased row covering materials. We also purchased materials for supporting a lot of tomato plants. Everything except the hoop house worked as hoped for last year. The hoop house didn’t take us through the winter as hoped, but it did lengthen the season some. This year I changed up the usage of these materials some to really support growing our own food source and not just experimenting.

Decided to grow only seedlings we had success with last year and ate: cabbages, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squashes, kale, lettuce and herbs. I’ll support our local farmers with some seedling purchases of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and early crop of lettuce.

2016Garden

Some seeds were early into the garden and sprouting under row cover. Our warmer weather seedlings are hardening off outside during the day and in at night this week. They’ll make their way into the garden shortly, as frost date is past and warmer regular weather. Also have a good variety of seeds that like the warmer soil and onion sets to get in the ground. The onion sets and larger seeds are very small hand friendly for my young planting helpers. The herbs are into the hoop house this year to see if we can lengthen their harvesting season.

We also have last year’s leaves to mulch the rows with, mixing in newspaper we’ve recycled and been using for scissor practice.

Gardening with children of any age offers so many learning opportunities. At the preschool age the following indicator areas of the Maine Early Learning Developmental Standards (MELDS) are supported:

  • Emotional Development – self concept, self-regulation
  • Social Development – building relationships with adults
  • Approaches to Learning – initiative & curiosity, engagement & persistence
  • Early Language and Litaracy – comprehension & collaboration, presentation of knowledge & ideas, vocabulary acquisition & use, integration of knowledge & ideas, research to build & present knowledge-writing
  • Physical Development and Health – nutrition, fine motor, gross motor,physical health status
  • Math – mathematical practices, counting & cardinality, operations and algebraic thinking, geometry, measurement & data
  • Science – earth science, life science
  • Social Studies – civics and government, economics, geography, history

May 16, 2015
by countryfun
Comments Off on We Have a Mini-Hoop House!

We Have a Mini-Hoop House!

I had hoped to involve the children in helping to construct the mini-greenhouse for the garden, but found it was better to get it made over the weekend myself. It was not a structure that little hands would have supported the construction of. Instead we’ll explore it together and use it together as we plant, tend and harvest through the winter.

I started with a garden area that would accommodate a 4′ x 6′ mini structure. This size will allow us to work from both sides 2′ in which works fine. That means I needed 2 – 4′ and 2 – 6′ pieces of cedar 1″x6″ to make the box frame.DSC06569

The frame was supported with corner bracing that left space for the 3/4″ pvc piping to fit behind.DSC06571  DSC06572

There are to be 4 hoops spaced 2′ apart with the ends held in place with the bracing that left the 2 middle hoops to be held in with clamps. DSC06573

It was easiest to get everything that needed nails or screws together in the garage, carry the finished frame out to the garden, place and fill with soil before placing the hoops. DSC06574

Next it was time to cover the ends with clear 6mil plastic. I used clear plastic we had on hand, although special garden plastic is suppose to last more years. The end plastic was stapled to the frame and then taped up and over the end hoops.

I then cut a length of plastic to cover the whole mini-hoop house. This was laid out and a 6′ piece of strapping was used as the ridge pole laying it over the plastic covered hoops. I screwed through the strapping and plastic into the hoops. This will not only help hold down the plastic, but ties the hoops together and adds stability to the structure. The hope is it will also help hold up to the snow we get.

I cut the plastic oversized, so I could attach 2″x3″x6′ board along each side. I rolled the plastic around the boards that were laid tight to the frame and stapled the plastic in place. DSC06578 This will both hold the plastic down tight and allow for it to be easily rolled up the hoops to make working within the hoop house easier. It will also allow for keeping the hoop house open once summer weather gets hot. I’m also trying out black foam tubing for clips to hold the plastic tight. If this doesn’t work I’ll be hunting for something like chip bag clips.

I’m thinking we’ll plant the cucumbers in here to start the season. They are suppose to like the enclosed environment. They will also be done growing in time for a fall seeding of kale, swiss chard, lettuce, carrots, beets, spinach. All these crops should be able to handle the winter cold and provide a fresh harvest. Maybe we’ll also add a tomato plant or two when we do the cucumbers……..

 

April 28, 2015
by countryfun
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Another Round of Planting

Today was a perfect day for planting another group of seeds to be started inside. We’ve charted the frost date for May and have counted back the weeks it takes the seeds planted inside to be ready for the outside garden. Working from our list, this week it’s time to plant the cantaloupe, watermelon, cuccumber, baby bell peppers, and 3 types of cabbage. We’ve already planted kale, brussels sprouts and 3 kinds of tomatoes, which have already sprouted. We’ve been thinning out the kale sprouts and enjoying as salad for our lunches. DSC06489

All you need is a container for water to wet down the potting soil before filling the containers. Small hands are perfect for mixing and filling.

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Then we talked about what we expected the seeds to look like, as we eat these foods all the time and know their seeds. We noticed the seeds were dry, but looked like what we expected. Then we planted multiple seeds per section. One kind of seed was planted in each 6-pack.

The 6-packs were labeled using alphabet stickers, so we can know what they are when they sprout. A matching sticker was placed on the seed pack.  DSC06503DSC06504

Everything watering in well and placed on the bottom shelf of our new homemade grow light station. This was made using some of the money from the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 Opportunity Alliance grant we received this year. This is the first year we have really grown our own seedlings. The baby gate has been repurposed to protect the lower growing shelf from curious toddlers and cats as it’s located within our program space.

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Now we’ll count down the days to germination for our newest plantings, watching and discussing what we see happening.

Once done it was outside to repair the row cover that the wind was blowing off.

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We restaked the long sides. We also took time to check out the kale seedlings already planted under the cover and found it was warmer under the cover than outside. Also under the cover are carrots, swiss chard and beets directly seeded.

 

September 18, 2014
by countryfun
Comments Off on Beans! Not Apples

Beans! Not Apples

It’s Fall and that means the apple orchards around our area are open for pick your own, cider and many apple goodies. It also means I’ve gathered many appropriate apple lesson ideas – ready to pull together as indicated. This year however, apples seem to be of little interest just now.

Since I believe in taking advantage of what we are involved in and where the children lead me we found ourselves setting up a simple bean growing activity today. Most would have this in the Spring, but we now have a jar with sprouting beans on the south facing windowsill.

How did this happen?

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A Canadian cold front means there might be a frost tonight, so my young helpers and I headed to the garden to gather some of the warmer weather fruit still growing. We harvested the bell peppers, remaining tomatoes, watermelons and dill.

The children asked about the beans and seeing many dried on the bean tower we gathered those too. We needed mashed potatoes for lunch, so I dug up one end of our potato row to see what we might find. Digging potatoes is fun with children as it’s always a surprise.

The children wanted to know what I’d be doing with the dried beans, so I asked if they wanted to help me shell them explaining that shelling meant we needed to open the dried bean pods and find the beans inside. I had 2 excited helpers.

shellingWe sat outside shelling, counting, finding beans that popped into the grass, and exploring the different textures. While shelling we found some beans that had started to sprout in the pod. Throw them into the compost basket or opportunity for additional learning?…..

Now we also had to put the good dried beans away for later use. Taking advantage of this opportunity – fine motor, volume, auditory/sounds, language, math……

Beans, Beans, Beans from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

We have beans on the windowsill that we’ll be following, so guess that answered the compost or additional learning question. 🙂

grow

 

May 20, 2014
by countryfun
2 Comments

Gardening 2014 Begins

I love getting my hands into the dirt, watching things grow and feeling the satisfaction of enjoying something I had a hand in raising. In trying to expose the children here to some of that I encourage them to help me as I garden. Maybe it’s the perennials, but more likely the herbs and vegetables. Every time we’re checking the herb garden we have to touch and smell.herbs

The vegetable garden is a totally different experience.

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Our backyard garden is not about teaching children about plants. It’s about us having fresh vegetables for eating. The learning comes naturally through the growing season for children who are interested. To involve the children we explore the seeds, discussing differences in size and shape, explaining how it helps us know how deep to plant them. There are some seeds that are really easy for small hands to seed (spinach, beets, kale, lettuce, carrots) as it’s about just spread them on top of the soil, then sprinkling a little soil over them, patting down and watering. I also always let them help with peas and onion sets. I try to get them to place and then poke into the ground the depth of their finger. What I find is the onions can be hard to poke in, so I follow behind to finish off. The peas go in easy, but often only about half germinate, so I reseed. I purchase many of the plants as seedlings from local farmers and plant them myself. Once done it’s time to tour, begin checking on growth progress, discussing varieties planted, how, why and what we can expect. The weeding I’ll do, but we’ll soon thin with the purpose of eating. (We’re already harvesting the rhubarb and asparagus.)

Gardening Begins 2014 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

One of those discussions is around why there are sticks and paper tubes. Simple answer – cut worms. Cut WormA garden pest that likes new seedlings. They circle the stem cutting through it. The stick stops them from getting around the stem. The paper tube works the same. I use paper tubes around seedlings can slide over. Sticks on all others.

 

October 18, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Farm to Preschool Day

Farm to Preschool Day

Love seeing the current push in education to get kids involved in growing and harvesting some of the food they eat.

As a gardener I have always involved the children here in my gardens, whether flowers, herbs or vegetable. We compost, plan, plant, weed, harvest and enjoy! Through these experiences we learn about our environment, ourselves, math, science, language and patience. Over the years the experiences have changed depending on the direction of interest by the children in program, but all have involved experiencing a variety of vegetables as part of our daily lunch and snacks.

Our gardening experiences in 2010

Gardening begins in 2012

Gardening begins in 2013

Vegetable snacks ideas

Today we are Celebrating Farm to Preschool Day – October 18, 2013.

Even though we eat our harvested vegetables year round, discussing where they come from, and importance of eating a rainbow for nutritional variety, it’s fun to bring a special focus today. For that the goal is to eat a vegetable that comes from the different parts of a plant. Not only will we be enjoying a variety of vegetables we will be learning more about the parts of a plant. We are also talking about seasonal changes at this time and can include that in the vegetables we are finishing harvesting and still growing in the garden.

Today’s meal is a Garden Lasagna made with a sauce base of heirloom and plum tomatoes, rainbow swiss chard, colored sweet bell peppers, fresh shell beans and herbs. This sauce is layered with dumpling noodles, cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese.

We will have eaten leaves, seeds, fruit from blossoms, and stems. Only missing the roots – which will be covered with the carrots from snack.

garden lasagna

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