This spring, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is collaborating with Boothbay Region’s pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms in a nine-week gardening program. CMBG Youth & Family Program Manager, Erika Huber, has designed weekly activities for teachers to carry out in the classroom that cover everything from the life cycle of a plant to germination, planning a garden to identifying plant parts, and pollinators to composting to harvest.
In a year when in-person field trips have been replaced by virtual ones, Huber sees this program as a new opportunity to connect children both to nature and to the food they eat. “While this program was born from unusual circumstances in an unusual year, it’s a collaboration we hope to continue,” Huber says. “Next year, we’ll hopefully be able to be on-site, offering programming in the school garden with the students.”
Each classroom received a grow light to help seeds germinate, and each child is growing a mini flower garden in class which they’ll later take home to plant. They’ll also grow plants to either give to or plant at St. Andrews Village in Boothbay Harbor. “The tentative plan is to walk their plants down to the Gregory wing on the last day of the program, Covid-allowing, and plant the student-grown nasturtiums and lemon basil in planters outside the wing,” Huber continues. “Beyond that, we are also giving students seeds to start gardens at home. Right now, it’s peas, carrots, radishes and spinach. Later on beans, melons, cucumbers, pumpkins and zucchinis.”
So far, the program has been well-received by both teachers and students. “This program has enhanced the plants unit we typically do at this time of the year, and Erika has been so helpful in providing us with the supplies we need and information to make everything run smoothly,” says Kindergarten teacher Jordan Plummer. “At this age, students are so curious and eager to see new life. Every morning they’re so excited to go straight to their plants. Their comments about the changes they see start our days with smiles and excitement. This has been a different and uncertain time for both children and adults, but this program is one of the many things we are doing in the classroom to keep the children engaged, excited, and eager to learn.”
“I am so glad we are doing something like this, something that we haven't had the time or staffing to do in the past,” Huber concludes. “Anything I can do to get people excited about nature makes me happy, and gardening really opens the door to getting kids curious about nature and where their food comes from. If we can get them interested at a young age, we are setting them up to be future stewards of the earth. One of our goals here at the Gardens is to do just that.”
At nearly 325 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the largest public Garden in New England. Voted #1 on TripAdvisor, the nationally recognized public garden is located in Boothbay, Maine. The mission of the Gardens is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants, and nature through horticulture, education, and research. Visit MaineGardens.org or call (207) 633-8000.