This week’s spotlight features Mill Creek Natureplay Preschool. This location has been a member of the Schoolyard Gardens program for a little over a year, but had gardened independently prior to joining. Over the past year, they’ve battled construction work on their playground making their gardens inaccessible, and like many sites, had to shutdown their program for several months due to safety concerns surrounding the pandemic. Despite these bumps in the road, Rosanna Munoz, garden coordinator and program director, has persevered and is doing an amazing job engaging her students in the garden.
Here’s what she had to say about the Mill Creek Natureplay SYG.
Mill Creek Natureplay Preschool, located in Shawnee, Kansas, serves children ages 3-5 years old. We have four raised garden beds, four large pots, currently filled with tomato plants, and numerous pots filled with herbs.
This spring, we had a very bountiful harvest of leafy greens – spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and several varieties of lettuce. We tried out several recipes at school for our snacks – quesadillas with sautéed Swiss chard, green smoothies with pineapple, banana, oranges and spinach, and lettuce, kale, and spinach salad with dressing. We had so much left for sharing that each child and teacher delighted in taking home a bag of produce for their family. Children were so excited to share their harvest, and the families were very appreciative!
Our crop of carrots didn’t make it home – we harvested, washed, and ate them right then!
And I can’t forget to mention our strawberries. This year the crop was immense! Over forty children ate strawberries every day for almost two weeks!
For children that are still a little hesitant to try a new food, we practice “mindful eating.” Mindful eating engages the five senses to explore food before eating it.
- Take a look. What does it look like? Can you describe it?
- Take a smell. How does it smell?
- Take a listen. If you shake it, does it make a sound?
- Take a feel. Is it soft, smooth, bumpy, cold, dry, wet?
- Take a taste. If you don’t want to eat it, give a lick. Maybe take a small bite and chew five times. If you still don’t like it, you can spit it out.
Mindful eating has really helped the children in our program explore new foods, but some children don’t need prompting. One of my favorite memories of working in our schoolyard garden is one of our students coming to me while we were outdoors and saying, “Ms. Rosanna, I’m sooooo hungry! Can I pleeeasssee eat some kale?” My answer? “Of course you can! Eat as much kale as you’d like!” This is the power of the school garden! When children take part in the planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting of the crops, they WANT to eat their vegetables!
So inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing Rosanna and Mill Creek Natureplay. Keep up the good work!