Kids and Bees

kids and bees

Recently my daughter’s second grade class took a field trip to an apiary. Their class is studying pollinators, and her fantastic teacher set up an opportunity for kids to meet a beekeeper and interact with hives. Of course I volunteered to tag along. A big part of this was that I wanted to meet bees up close and personal (and of course get to know the kids in my daughter's class).

kids and bees
Quietly observing pollination activity

The kids had a long walk to the apiary, and we passed the time by chanting about how much we love bees. It was a beautiful early fall day in Vermont and there were lots of bees out on flowers and weeds on our walk. Even though they had been studying bees, there were quite a few kids who were scared of being stung. How was this going to go if they were surrounded by thousands of bees?!

Once we got to the apiary, kids were divided into two groups that would take turns doing an activity. One group found a flower to sit near in a native pollinator garden, and did a quiet observation of any visiting insects. The other group dressed in the kid-sized beekeeper suits and visited the hives. Can you guess which activity kids were more excited for?

kids and bees
A dead drone (male) bee

Kids who were scared of bees without a suit were fearless wearing a suit. They were excited to listen to the beekeeper and interact with the hives. They got to hold bees in their hand, observe them closely, and learn all sorts of cool facts. Such as:

  • Boy bees don’t sting.
  • Girl bees have a stinger because when they were not chosen to be the queen, their egg tube turns into the stinger. (I feel like this is a whole mood.)
  • Girl bees kick the boy bees out of the hive as it starts to get cold.

It was really fun seeing kids be able to get up close and personal with bees. It’s a hands-on learning experience they’ll remember forever. If you ever have a chance to take a class or your own kiddos to an apiary – do it!!

Root for Gardens

We're right in the middle of our back-to-school-gardens fundraiser and we need your help!

root for gardens tshirtAs a non-profit organization, we rely on support from our partners, sponsors, and friends just like you to help us fulfill our mission of creating opportunities for kids to play, learn, and grow through gardening.

This fall, we launched our Root for Gardens t-shirt to raise much needed funds to support our free original educational resources.

The shirts come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes so you're sure to find one that you'll love. There are even kid sizes! We're really excited about it, and we hope you are too.

Want a few more reasons to go ahead and hit "purchase?"

  • You'll be the best-dressed gardener at your harvest celebration, regional conference, or garden work day!
  • Look good and feel good about doing good!
  • Everyone needs a shirt with carrots. Even if you already own one, get this one to wear while the other is in the wash!
  • Your support really does make a huge difference to KidsGardening, and to the parents, educators, and families we serve.

Don't delay! The shirts are limited-edition, and there is less than a week left in the fundraiser. After you order your favorite color, share the campaign with your friends and family!

Summer Photo Contest Winners

photo contest

We just finished our Summer Photo Contest and we were overwhelmed with fantastic entries. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - thank you to every parent, educator, summer camp counselor, grandparent, second-cousin-twice-removed, and caregiver who takes the time to garden with kids. It's powerful, and it makes a difference in their lives. If I saw you in real life, I'd love to give you a hug.

We received so many excellent entries (372 to be exact), and it was SO hard to pick winners. I wanted to share just a few here, but you can see even more on our Photo Contest Winner page, and we'll be sharing them across social media as well.

[Header image: "Fuzzy caterpillar face," photo by Lexie. I love how kids notice the best details! Lexie captured a great view of this creature's face, which looks incredibly like a Muppet.]

Cooperation

These two are almost too much cuteness in one photo. What I really love about it is how capable these two are! They are trusted with watering the garden (an essential task!) and they are cooperating to get the job done. The garden is a beautiful place to practice cooperation skills. And trusting little ones to do hard things can be challenging as a parent/teacher/caregiver!

Photo Contest
"Time to water our garden! Vivian and Onyx, both almost three years old, are sharing the hose to fill up their watering can." Submitted by Liz.

Let them be messy

Look at those little hands, working hard to create seed balls for pollinators! Getting in the garden can be messy. It's also a fantastic sensory experience, and totally worth it. You've got to help kiddos clean up their own bodies, the tables, the floor, the wall, the ceiling. Sunhats off to all the grown-ups not afraid of a mess!

kids photo contest
Pollinator balls in the making at Glastonbury East Hartford Magnet School in Glastonbury, CT.

Same, my friend

Raise your hand if that's how you feel after an evening in the garden?! Yep, me too. Harvest time is great, but man am I tired!

photo contest
This is my son Ethan who joins me at the community garden working quite a bit. This evening he just couldn't resist a snooze. Photo submitted by Emily.

Container Gardening: Strikes and Gutters

container gardening

Here in Vermont, we’re just starting to reap the rewards of our hard garden work. I love chatting with fellow gardeners about what’s growing well in their gardens this year. I wanted to share one great success, and one colossal failure we’ve had this year.

I’ve got a sizable in-ground community garden plot, but the soil is very sandy and honestly I think it needs a few years of augmentation to be great soil. We’ve struggled with growing things like carrots and beets, and since our family eats lots of carrots, we really want to grow at least some of them!

container gardening
Happy kids with their sizable carrots!

So this year I bought a few fabric bags for growing carrots. (I bought these Grow Bags in a few bright colors.) We filled them with a good local, organic soil designed for containers. We watered them diligently until they sprouted. I mercilessly thinned the carrots. (Ugh, why is thinning carrots so hard?!) Reader, we had fantastic success! My kids pulled up beautiful carrots last week, and we couldn’t be happier. (Well, they fought over who got to eat the purple carrot, but they did eat six carrots in one evening.) There are some that are still pretty tiny, so we’re just doing a few a week, to the dismay of my preschooler who would love nothing more than to pull every.single.carrot out. (Want more info on growing carrots? Check out our carrot growing guide.)

And then there’s the strawberry tower. I wrote about this when we first constructed it. It started off so well! The strawberry plants blossomed! We were all dreaming about shoving our faces full of strawberries. Then, the plants slowly died. Honestly, they may have dried out? The thing was really hard to water. Also, the plants didn’t really have that much soil to work with. My spouse wants to deconstruct it and add a watering source down the middle. I am less into this plan, and want to just plant the strawberries in the ground. But, it was a total fail, and I think we literally got one strawberry from the whole contraption.

What about you? What are your strikes and gutters in the garden this year?

Read in (and About!) the Garden

read about the garden

This month’s KidsGarden News is all about literacy and the garden. So, what better time to continue talking about great children’s books featuring the garden? Last week, Sarah wrote about four books she recommends for folks who garden with kids. I’m going to focus on books to read to kids or that they can read themselves.  

My kids are 4 and 7. Our house is filled with books and we spend a lot of time at the library. Our family of four has four library cards, and at any one time of the month, at least one is maxed out on its borrowing limit of 30 items.   

Here are a few of our family favorites, but please share yours with me too below in the comments so I can go grab them from the library.   

Frog and Toad Together, Arnold Lobel
"The Garden" 

If there was a Frog and Toad fan club, I might just be the president. These books are great for early readers, or for kids who like to be read to. The chapter called “The Garden” has Frog giving seeds to Toad so he can plant his own garden. Toad expects immediate results, and shouts at the seeds to “START GROWING!” This would be a great one to read as you sow seeds in spring to remind kids to be patient with their garden.  

Bee & Me, Alison Jay 

This is a wordless picture book about a city child who befriends a bee after initially being frightened of being stung. The bee misses flowers, though, so they adventure to a rural area to gather seeds to sprinkle around the city. Many children in the city are delighted to see the pollinators that visit the plants. At the end of the book, there are some tips on planting for bees as well as other ways to help them. This would be a good choice before planting a pollinator garden, or perhaps for a child who is fearful of bees. 

Miss Maple’s Seeds, Eliza Wheeler  

This is a sweet and gentle story about a bird-sized woman who cares for seeds over the winter until it’s time for them to start their journey by wind, water, or soil. It would be a good choice for younger kids who like to take care of things (think babies or stuffed animals), perhaps when you start seeds indoors. 

Du Iz Tak?, Carson Ellis 

I love this book. It’s a fantastic read-aloud, and you should get it from the library or book store immediately. It’s written in a made-up language, but the syntax is the same as EnglishThe book follows insects in their discovery of a plant and how it changes throughout the growing season. It’s fun for all ages, but would be a hoot to include in a grammar or language study unit for older elementary school students. Be prepared for the preschool set to want to read this one over and over. You probably won’t mind.  

Zoey and Sassafras: The Pod and The Bog, Asia Citro 

Zoey and Sassafrass is a chapter-book series that my rising second-grader recently got into. It’s about a girl who helps magical creatures. It’s charming and adorable and super STEM-focused. All the books have Zoey solving a natural-world problem using science, but this one is specifically about what a plant needs. My preschooler loves to listen to these as well, so you don’t have to wait on this great series until you have a reader! These would be a great when introducing experiments or this book specifically would be great when studying pollination.  (The link in the beginning of this paragraph goes to a site with loads of activities for the first three books in the series.)

In addition to these, be sure to check out our Read in the Garden activity for more book suggestions, as well as our lesson plans for the books Oliver's Vegetables and Seedfolks.

 

Behind the Scenes of In the Weeds

In the Weeds with Christine

As many of you know, we’ve started a little video series with our education specialist Christine Gall called In the Weeds. Each month, Christine shares a favorite lesson plan from one of our curriculum books and does a quick demonstration. She also shares a few features about the book and what audience it might be most appropriate for.

If you haven’t seen any of our In the Weeds videos, I encourage you to check them out on our YouTube channel, or on our In the Weeds page on our website. We share the latest video in our newsletter, KidsGarden News, each month.

In the Weeds
Sometimes it's cold out there for our In the Weeds video shoots!

One common theme you may notice is that Christine always LOVES the book she’s showcasing. This is, in fact, true, and not just for the camera. We end up using a new copy of each book for each episode because Christine’s copies are so dog-eared and full of sticky notes. She’s a garden educator, and really uses all of these materials!

One thing you may not know is that we give away a copy of the featured curriculum each month. We run these promotions on Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to follow us there in order to be able to enter these giveaways if you’re interested in a particular curriculum book.

I would be really bad at my job as a marketing director if I didn’t also point out that all our curriculum books are for sale through Gardeners Supply Company.

Schools and educational institutions can receive a 25% discount off the regular retail price for items from Gardener’s Supply (discount cannot be applied on top of other discounts). To take advantage of this discount, you must contact Holly-Ruth Stocking at 802-861-7127 or 888-560-1037 and place your order by phone (not available through online shopping at this time). Please mention source code KGO2018.

We hope you like watching In the Weeds as much as we like creating the content. Can I leave you with one of my favorite In the Weeds bloopers? Christine was extra-enthusiastic during a lesson on how seeds travel and got this burr stuck in her hair.

Constructing a Strawberry Tower

strawberry

strawberry tower
The strawberry tower, newly constructed.

My kiddos, like many of their age-mates and fellow humans, LOVE strawberries. In fact, the promise of 1-2 garden strawberries was often how I bribed them to walk to our community garden with me! Our strawberry patch was getting a little tired, and we knew we needed to refresh with new plants this year.

Then along came Taylor.

As you may recall, Taylor was one of our weekly winners for Kids Garden Month. She had a container garden in a baby pool, and the most fascinating strawberry tower made of fence pickets.

strawberry tower
Strawberry plants peeking out of the planter.

I was intrigued. I showed Taylor's video to my spouse, who promptly headed to the lumber yard to buy fence pickets and the correct size hole saw. I promptly ordered 75 bare root strawberry plants from Stark Bro's.

Within two weeks, we had our own strawberry tower! The one hiccup my construction worker reported was that drilling the holes required the use of a corded, rather than cordless drill, since it took so much power to make the holes. (Thanks, Dad, for the loaner. Did we give that back yet?) We buried the bottom of the tower in a planter, then filled it with organic raised bed soil mix, which was a very messy process that resulted in me being completely showered with soil several times. Then we tucked the little bare root plants in the drilled holes. We very carefully wheeled it to the community garden in our Red Flyer wagon, and within a few days, the plants had come to life!

Our next step is to toss some netting over the whole thing so the crows don't get to the berries before we do. We are really excited about this project, and I am so grateful to Taylor for sharing it! Here's to a summer of strawberries!

 

Thank You for Gardening With Kids

Last night I took my pre-schooler to soccer. It's not a team, more like a few weeks where the littles get some experience running around with a ball and having fun. Parent participation is expected, and my kiddo still likes when I'm right by their side in group events. At the end of the time period, the coach said, "and  now I want all of you to yell THANK YOU to your parents for bringing you!"

That's what I want to do! I want to yell THANK YOU to all the parents, teachers, volunteers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and educators who facilitated the record-breaking participation in our Kids Garden Month contest this year. We know the kids love it, but they don't have any money to buy plants or they need adult supervision to use the glue gun for a seed mosaic. They are able to reflect on what grows in their garden because of YOU!

We are constantly amazed by all of the folks out there who garden with their kids. Every parent who makes it a tradition to plant seeds in early spring, every teacher who goes the extra mile to get their students engaged in the school green space, every volunteer who helps make a school garden possible. Because of you, kids know where there food comes from. Because of you, kids are connecting with nature. Because of you, kids are engaged in experiential, hands-on learning. Because of you, kids are caring for the earth.

Here are KidsGardening, we try to make that work a little easier with activities and lesson plans, garden basics and growing guides, and grants, contests, and giveaways. But it all comes back to the caring grown-ups in kids' lives who get their hands in the soil and make it happen. So, once again, THANK YOU!

(Garden art pictured above is by Oliver R, a kindergartener at the J Center for Early Learning.)

It’s Kids Garden Month!

Kids Garden Month

April is Kids Garden Month! We're celebrating with the KidsGrow contest, and can't wait to see all the amazing things kids will share with us.

If you are interested in having the kids in your life participate, ask them to think about what grows in their garden. Creativity is encouraged! You can also ask them to think about what else might grow in their garden that isn't a plant. For example, are they having fun?  How does gardening make them feel the food they eat? Do they like to spend time with family, friends, or classmates in the garden? What do they do with the garden's harvest?

We created this contest to lift up the powerful and meaningful impact kids have on their community. Gardening can be a springboard to healthier eating, community engagement, and environmental stewardship. These intangible benefits of gardening will last longer than any zucchini or bean you might grow. 

We so look forward to seeing what's growing in your kids' gardens! You can find all the contest rules and methods of entry on our Kids Garden Month 2019 page.

Follow along on our social media accounts (below), and here on the blog, to keep up with all the fun things we're doing this month to celebrate gardening with kids.

Pictured above, a poem by a 7-year-old that reads, "In spring the garden's ready. The seeds are planted, we are watering. The wind blows. I sprout."

Prickly Palace Part Two

cactus from seed

cactus from seed
They are really tiny! Paperclip for scale.

Many months ago, I shared our office planting experiment - the Prickly Palace! To catch you up, we started growing cactus from seed over a year ago. (Has it been that long?!) Ever so slowly, the cactus keep growing.

At least we think they're growing. Honestly, they are so slow that it's hard to tell. But looking back to the image from my blog post ten months ago, they've changed, so that's a good sign. Here's what we've done to help them along since our last post, in case you are looking to try this project in your home or classroom.

Our seedlings are in a windowsill. We live in Vermont, and this winter has been very, very cold. So we put a heat mat under the seedlings just to keep them from getting too chilled.

cactus from seed
Cactus food.

We water 2-3 times a week. The soil gets dry really fast with the heat mat on. In the last month or so, we started using some liquid plant food in a spray bottle, and now that's what we use to water each time. The cactus are responding well! It seems like a few of them have grown tiny arms (maybe they are arms, we can't tell what kind of cactus they are yet!), which is a very exciting development.

prickly palace cactus from seed
A particularly odd looking baby cactus. Do you know what it will grow up to be?

They aren't yet big enough to move into their own pots, but maybe after a summer of growth we will have some repotting to do. Their pots will be so tiny! Let us know if you have any questions, or even better, some advice! If you've done this before we'd love to hear from you.