When children get to put their hands in the dirt, it transforms their whole world. At Ms. Sharon Jackson’s Array of Light Childcare Home in Millbrook, this is happening every day. Sharon Jackson knows the importance of taking children outside and telling them about how their food is grown. Ms. Sharon said this teaches children about how plants are living things.
We visited Ms. Sharon at her home when her staff and Master Gardener, Bionca Lindsey were planting their garden and got to experience all the learning for ourselves. The bright-eyed children were so excited to run outside and start their vegetable garden. They rushed to the side yard and saw all the planters with moist topsoil and seeds ready to be dug into them. They were so excited. The children got their shovels and they were ready to start their farm. Ms. Sharon gathered the children together and poured the seeds into their hands, first carrots, then cabbage, collards, turnips, broccoli, and onions. The children learned that you have to put the seeds in good, fertile soil so the seeds can grow big and strong. Eventually, these seeds will grow into vegetables and the children will get to feast on their hard work.
The children and Ms. Sharon also planted an herb garden with thyme, parsley, and mint. Ms. Sharon showed us the beautiful herb garden that she planted last year. She noted that she was surprised that the herbs were still alive and healthy after a year. She was very proud of her herb garden. She brought the children over and told them to smell the garden. The garden smelled of mint and it filled the garden so wonderfully. The children loved the smell – one of them even saying that in his opinion, it was stinky!
After all the seeds were planted in their respective planters, the children each got their own water pail and went around and watered all the seeds in the planters. They might have even been a little generous to some planters but hopefully, the seeds will appreciate the extra love.
The Master Gardener, Ms. Bionca also taught the children about the runoff water that comes from the roof. When it rains, the water runs off the roof and then goes into the planters that are on the edge of the garden and while that can be good, when it rains really hard this can be detrimental to the new plants. Ms. Bionca brought them umbrellas to place in the planters when this happens. This clever idea is exactly what Ms. Sharon’s garden needs. She explained that last year she noticed her plants under the roof weren’t growing as much as they should be. Ms. Bionca provided her with the perfect solution and the children loved this idea.
While clearing the gardening area used during last year’s gardening season, Ms. Sharon and the children found an onion, ready to be harvested! She was so surprised and happy when she found it. The children each wanted to hold their recent garden discovery. Ms. Sharon told us that she’d be using the onion in the children’s upcoming meals.
The children loved being able to dig in the dirt and learn about the earth. They were full of energy and beamed as they took ownership of their garden. No matter how young a child is, this makes an impression on them – gardening allows children to be active and learn where their food comes from. Ms. Sharon and her staff consistently show their dedication to teaching and caring for young children. Her educational experiences for these children are invaluable and something they will remember for years to come. She has experienced great success and her involvement in this initiative is highly appreciated by the Alabama Farm to ECE Coalition.