Lydia Atkins, a former New College student brought her fifth grade class and one fourth-grader from Tuscaloosa Magnet Elementary School to the Arboretum for a field trip. The students were lead throughout the Arboretum and saw the greenhouses, garden, and the tree topology. Camille Perret and I lead one group of students around to the different stations. The children had actually been learning about gardening with Lydia, so they were excited to see the Arboretum.
We first started off in the greenhouses. Camille and I asked them questions like, why we would start our plants in a green house instead of in the garden? We had various answers from the students. For example, students said because you are able to control temperature in the house and that it is a good way to make sure bugs and rodents would not get into the plants. We also showed the vermicompost and explained the importance of worm poop for the soil. The kids really enjoyed seeing the worms and were impressed by the big container. We also showed them the peels of fruit we eat like cantolope in the vermicompost. We explained how this helps make compost which is good for the soil.
After the greenhouses, we went to the tables outside where there were numerous tomato, basil, and marigold plants. We told the children they were going to be planting one of these plants in the garden. Camille showed them the correct way to remove a plant from the container and place it in the ground.
After the demonstration we lead our group of children to the garden where they each planted one plant. We had to make sure the children did not step on the beds and compact the soil.
Many of Lydias students had not visited the Arboretum before and did not know it existed. I talked with Lydia and Sarah Massey after the field trip and they said the children loved the Arboretum. They wondered why school could not be taught out there instead of inside. They both said the children were surprised to learn you can different types of plants in the green house like tropical and non-native plants. They said probably their favorite part of the trip was seeing the worms.
I think it is wonderful that children are getting involved and learning about gardening at a young age. I never had an experience like a field trip to the arboretum but I’m glad teachers are trying to incorporate and show the importance of growing plants. Growing plants are important because they help keep us alive. I’m glad these students were able to have a hands-on experience with the garden and I hope they understand the importance of growing plants.