Students at The Learning Center Charter School regularly play in the dirt. Whether working on the school’s vegetable garden, building miniature homes in the school’s Outdoor Learning Center, taking soil samples for science class or turning the school compost pile, being in the dirt is a regular part of any school day.
Kindergarten through eighth grade students at the school do everything in the garden from weeding, planting, watering and harvesting fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Director in Training, Ryan Bender, believes that gardening engages students by providing a living environment to observe, discover, experiment, nurture, and learn. “Gardens are living laboratories where our students learn everything from team work to food production and lessons can be taught across the curriculum,” says Bender.
Emily Willey, elementary science and outdoor learning coordinator at the charter school, makes gardening a regular part of the daily routine for students at the school.
“Playing an active role in food production teaches young people everything from agriculture to nutrition. These kids love seeing the fruits of their labor and are willing to eat unfamiliar vegetables as a result.”
Willey also has her first through fourth grade students continuously engineering, building, trouble shooting and redesigning miniature houses out in the woods for imaginary fairies and trolls.
“It is helpful for students who are intimidated in a classroom setting to be outdoors and have unstructured play and creative freedom while interacting with nature,” says Willey. “There is no wrong way to build these miniature homes and to watch students who may be timid in class slowly come into their own as they get to build outside has been nothing but inspiring.”