Grow Your Own (February 2016)
A year later, I’m still stuck on Valentine’s Day and plant/garden-related preschool projects that sidestep the typical concoctions of hearts and flower petals (fond as I am of those). This year, I decided to have the kids prepare their own potting soil as a gift. Most of the families are aware of the kinds of projects we do in gardening class and usually welcome the opportunity to continue projects at home. Just the same, I advised the teachers to be sure to tell parents what the little bag of dirt they would be receiving is for.
Here’s the recipe we used to come up with our homemade potting soil:
- 1 part good garden soil
- 1 part compost
- 1 part perlite (this can be dusty; have kids step back a little while it’s being poured in)
- 1 part peat (optional)
Other supplies and tools needed: small clean yogurt cup for scooping and measuring; soil sifter (see photo); tray or old cookie sheet; water for lightly wetting the mixture; small compostable waxed baggies (I like If You Care; http://buy.ifyoucare.com); jute twine, stapler, or tape for closing the bag; decorations for the outside of the bag, according to kids’ wishes…
Our first job was to extract the compost from our worm bin while gently separating out the worms to return them to their home. The sifter helps with this process and gives the kids some fun and observation time with their earthy “pets.” Next, using the yogurt cup, we measured enough garden soil to fill ten baggies and sifted it onto a tray. We scooped the soil and compost into a reusable grocery bag and added the perlite and peat (I usually avoid peat for environmental reasons, but we happened to have a supply on hand). With adults helping to hold the bag closed, we took turns shaking up the mixture. After that step, we added enough water to moisten the mix and took turns stirring it up. Finally, the kids scooped out a yogurt cup of potting soil into their baggies and added Valentine’s Day decorations. A sweet alternative to spending $5 to $10 on a plastic bag full of not just soil but sometimes questionable ingredients.
Seeded Valentines (February 2015)
Problem: Many years worth of old seeds.
Solution: Face the fact that these seeds are probably no longer viable. Take them to preschool and make them into valentines.
I wasn’t sure if the kids would find this very interesting, but in fact, they did. For one thing, we don’t usually get a chance to play with a bowlful of seeds. The kids liked dipping their hands into the bowl and testing out the different shapes, textures, and sizes. While we’re working on gluing the seeds onto our valentines, questions come up: What are these things anyway? Some look like little stones—how are they different from stones? Are they alive? I set out magnifying glasses on the table, so we can take a closer look. With the seeds are also many seed packets, some very artful, so those go into the seed collages as well. One little girl suggests that we should pour water on them. We decide that would be a good experiment to try—after Valentine’s Day.