Twenty children from the
It was a day of pleasure and delightful surprises for the kids. Walking through the greenhouses gave them the understanding that plants require certain temperatures and conditions to survive. The kids were amazed that greenhouse structures make it possible for tropical plants to grow in
Each child was given a tomato, basil, or marigold plant to carry to the garden, where Camille taught about the wonder of companion planting; the students found it interesting that marigold plants repel harmful bugs that would otherwise be attracted to tomato plants. Kids tasted, scratched and sniffed herbs in the garden, and learned about the medicinal properties of local trees. They absolutely loved the pond and hanging on tree limbs.
Field trip organizers said it was important to strike the balance between structured and unstructured time, which is totally different than in a classroom, where time is typically completely structured and accounted for. The “free” time allotted for the kids to explore nature and absorb their surroundings gave curiosity the opportunity to emerge – so many questions arose! What kinds of trees are these? Do deer come through here? Do bears live here? What is this plant called?
Of the twenty kids, only five had been to the Arboretum before. They were so excited to discover that the arboretum is open every day and that they can come out here any time they want if they ask their parents. It was a great opportunity for them to know that the arboretum is a part of their town.
"I can't believe this is school!" -5th grade boy
Lydia Atkins describes her students’ wonder at the opportunity of being outside during school hours, and contemplates that we are all thirsty for a different learning environment. We want to be outside more, surrounded by smells, sounds, different ecosystems, something entirely stimulating.
It takes just a planting in a garden, a walk through some greenhouses, a peek into a worm bin, a hike up to the treetops, to inspire a child's awareness of nature and life as relationship, as a mysterious but inherently participatory adventure. After the field trip, the children reviewed lessons on symbiotic relationships in class. No doubt that their experience learning about companion plants in the garden reinforced this lesson and provided a meaningful foundation for educational engagement.