It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden by George Ancona is a warm and delightful picture book about a school garden at the Acequia Madre elementary school in Santa Fe. Ancona provides both color photographs and samples of the children’s art work to document the changes that occur with the seasons.
You will be amazed by this school garden. Besides the vegetable and herb plots, there is a greenhouse, an outdoor classroom, a compost heap, and a cistern to collect water from the school roof. They even have a traditional oven, or horno, to cook some of the vegetables at harvest. In addition to teachers and parents, several volunteers work with the children. On community days everyone comes to help, including grandparents, siblings and friends. People bring musical instruments to play while the workers rest. It is obviously a focal point of the surrounding neighborhood.
Reading the book, it becomes apparent that the sky is the limit with the projects that can be tied to the garden. One fabulous idea: the teachers have put up an easel with paper in the garden so the children can write about and draw their observations about what is blooming, growing and being harvested each day. A teacher shows insects pollinating plants by releasing butterflies the children raised in the classroom. Art class is held outside using natural materials from the garden. Children learn about plant structures, growth and life cycles first hand.
The book does have one common error (an irritant to an entomologist like myself). The author writes about the butterflies (the photographs show painted lady butterflies) emerging from “cocoons.” Technically a cocoon is the silk wrapping that a moth larva makes around itself before it pupates. The resting or pupal stage of a butterfly is called chrysalis. That should not detract, however, from the overall positive aspects of the book.
Children are likely to enjoy reading this book and learning about plants, life cycles and the critters that can be found in the garden. Hopefully It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden will inspire many more schools to incorporate a garden space. Besides the tangible benefits of healthy outdoor activity and an introduction to fresh vegetables, the children have likely received many intangible benefits that they will carry with them throughout their lives. It is a garden growing young minds and bodies as well as plants.
It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden by George Ancona
Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (January 8, 2013)
(Copy provided by my public library)
If you are interested in school gardening in the Southwest, I recommend a book by some of my friends and fellow Arizona Master Gardeners:
Success with School Gardens: How to Create a Learning Oasis in the Desert by Linda A. Guy, Cathy L. Cromell, and Lucy K. Bradley
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Arizona Master Gardener Press (September 1996)
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Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by Booktalking to see who is hosting each week.
Today’s round up is at Biblio Links.