Earlier this summer, Cornell Farm was honored to host a series of field trips for students from International School of Portland (ISP). One busload at a time, groups of summer campers arrived at the Nursery for garden tours led by our expert team — with an obligatory stop by our chicken coop, of course! And for a few minutes, we had the opportunity to talk with them about the fascinating world of plants.
Kids and Plants
There's nothing like watching the eyes of a child light up with wonder. Even as an adult, it's hard not to be amazed when you consider the way plants convert sunlight and nutrients into usable energy, and how insects help to make more plants by moving pollen between flowers. Photosynthesis and pollination are what allows a tiny seed to grow into a towering tree, and what enables plants to grow the vegetables that we eat. Even in the short time we had together with the campers from ISP, we got to talk with them about these amazing natural processes, and start them thinking about how factors like sun vs. shade and wet vs. dry inform not just how we group plants at the Nursery, but how we decide what to plant together in the garden. In the process, we had the opportunity to speak into several themes from the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum at ISP — themes like "How the World Works," "Sharing the Planet," and "How We Organize Ourselves."
The garden, after all, is a natural laboratory for exploring the world. But, perhaps more importantly, it is also a classroom for learning about ourselves. Planting and maintaining a garden helps children develop important life skills: It asks them to problem-solve with patience, fosters their creativity, and provides a means for them to emotionally self-regulate. And sharing the responsibility of caring for a garden provides opportunities for them to exercise interpersonal skills related to communication and collaboration, connecting them not only to the natural world, but to the people around them. (Plus, digging around in the dirt is just an important part of being a kid!)
A Project to Take-Home
As a part of the field trip, each camper got to pick out a plant from the Patio to take back to the school's garden. There, they had the change to dig in the dirt as they worked together to put into practice all the things they learned on their visit. But it is our hope that, as they bid farewell to the Nursery, each student carried with them not only a new plant, but the seeds for something much bigger: A newfound appreciation for plants, the environment, and how we fit into the bigger picture of it all. Our interactions with these campers served to remind us that it's never to early to instill a love of gardening and that, no matter our age, we have much to learn from plants.
International School of Portland is an International Baccalaureate elementary school that seeks to inspire children to become global citizens through a curriculum that immerses them in multiple languages and cultures. Established in 1990, it was the first IB elementary school in the Pacific Northwest, and today educates over 400 students from pre-K through 5th grade in the target languages of Spanish, Japanese, and Mandarin — whether that be during the school year or through their many summer camp programs.