At KinderCare Education, we know that growth starts from the inside out. Having a healthy body means having a healthy mind and we want to nourish and fuel the children in our care to learn and grow. That’s why, over the next few weeks, we’re sharing stories about the nutrition improvements we’ve made and celebrating the extraordinary centers and sites who are taking our commitment to do what’s right for the children in our care to the next level.
The best way to smell herbs is to rub their leaves between two fingers—gently, of course. This is one of many lessons children at Fisher’s Landing KinderCare in Vancouver, Wash., learned since planting their garden. With intention and respect, prekindergarten students Evan and Ian rub the leaves of plants in their herb garden and identify them all—lavender, mint, lemon balm, oregano—before turning their attention to garden beds of corn, tomatoes, peppers, and beans.
“I love the smell of all the plants,” said Ian, who can’t wait to use the strawberries and mint from the center’s garden to make flavored lemonade.
What started as a small herb garden project two years ago has grown into a full-fledged vegetable garden thanks to Center Director Jessica Hamilton’s dedication.
“We hired a new cook who used herbs from our herb garden to elevate our menu,” said Hamilton. “Then, it really turned into teaching the children to eat garden to table.”
And they do—vegetables, herbs, and fruit from the center’s garden are incorporated into the center’s menu. With such an intimate connection to the food they eat, Hamilton says children are trying new foods and taking an impressive amount of pride in cultivating their garden.
“They have an emotional connection to it,” she said. “They’re really learning about compassion.”
On Earth Day, all children at the center had a hand in planting their garden. Teachers led their children through planting, weeding, and watering.
“Every child planted something in the garden,” said Hamilton. “I’ve never seen them all so well-behaved, engaged, busy, and involved.”
So far this season, the center is growing herbs, strawberries, peppers, corn, beans, and tomatoes. Still to be planted are marigolds, which will help keep away unwanted pests. Beyond vegetables, herbs, and flowers, the center is taking steps to start composting; and at the end of April, they released butterflies students raised from caterpillars into their garden, too.
“Having the garden and everything that goes into it is almost, for them, like having a pet,” said Assistant Director Jenny Hendrix. “It gives the kids a real sense of responsibility.”
And parents love the garden, too. Hamilton says families are excited that their children are learning so much and eating organic, healthy foods, too.
“Parents have come to me and told me that they’re inspired to plant their own gardens at home,” she said.
Hamilton is also proud that all of her classrooms are learning to recycle.
The children at Fisher’s Landing are incredibly enthusiastic about their garden; teachers pepper garden activities and conversations into the everyday curriculum. And what do the kids like most about growing their own herbs and vegetables?
“I like it when the food comes out!” said one excited pre-k student.
“The garden is good because it provides a lot of food for people,” said Evan.
By doing the right thing for the children in their care, Hamilton and her staff teach children to do the right thing for the world around them.