- Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia, is one step closer to reopening its Little Lions Farm Stand after the city shut it down earlier this year, according to a press release. The learning center’s pre-school program includes a community garden where students learn to grow their own produce, play, learn to compost and develop healthy eating habits.
- The stand was initially forced to close because it was located in a residential zone. On Feb. 6, the city’s planning and zoning commission passed an ordinance with a 4-1 vote which will allow sales of locally grown produce in residential areas.
- The garden produces enough food to share with the community, and prior to its shutdown, the preschool’s farm stand opened twice a month. Children could also use their “Lion Bucks” school money to purchase food from the stand.
According to specialists, preschool gardening has many developmental benefits stemming from children using locomotor, body management and object control skills during the activity.
Carrying gardening tools, watering and spreading soil develop lifelong learning skills. Fine motor skills are enhanced by grasping tools, and pincer grasping is practiced when using smaller tools. Gardening also provides sensory stimulation through soil work and water play, while stimulating senses through color and textures.
Additionally, gardening gives children the opportunity to use scientific practices and develop conceptual understanding, and to discover how natural materials are the same or different, organize their findings and learn to ask relevant questions.
There is also evidence gardening can positively impact a student’s test scores in science achievement. Watching gardens grow may trigger scientific questions such as wondering why plants need sunshine and how they consume water. At early ages, students can learn about photosynthesis and growth, and gardening books can inspire reading practice, as well.
In addition to providing local access to fresh produce, school community garden farmstands can also be used to introduce young students to concepts like choosing healthy meal options or managing money
— even if that currency is just for play.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Head Start program encourages the use of gardening in early childhood education programs. Calling the outdoors an “essential place for children’s learning,” the agency said being outside improves health and supports development. Head Start offers a selection of resources and ideas on how to create engaging outdoor spaces.