The Danny Woo Community Garden contributes an enchantment that its urban environment often escapes to provide. As new volunteers stroll into our office, we hear about how the beauty of the garden attracted them to our site. I am lucky enough to work in this space and spend time in the garden feeding the chickens, managing volunteers, and educating kids.
My name is Rachel and I work as the Program Coordinator for the Danny Woo Community Garden. The garden was created by InterIm CDA in order to provide low-income, immigrant families living in Seattle’s International District with a place to practice traditional organic agricultural techniques and grow culturally relevant foods. In 2010, InterIm CDA created a Children’s Garden as a way to encourage youth in the community to participate in garden activities, sustain the cultural knowledge of the neighborhood and increase their access to healthy food.
Our fall season has been saturated with collaboration amidst community groups and schools in order to establish our 2012 Children’s Garden Program. We have held meetings with the Denise Louie Education Center, Yesler Terrace Community Center gardening program, Puget Sound Community School, Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development after school program, and others. We are excited that all of the programs listed above have confirmed their participation in our Children’s Garden Program for the 2012 growing season! Our recently held inaugural garden class with youth from the Yesler Terrace Community Center was a great success in spite of the cold, dark, and rainy day on which the children arrived. Twenty youth between the ages of five and 14 came to visit the garden and learn about our chickens, plant identification, and nutrition. Kids had fun doing the following activity.
For all of you garden educators, here is a simple activity idea for plant identification with a nutrition component. It is especially relevant for chicken care taking but can be utilized in other ways as well:
Prep work: Create 3-4 ‘grab bags’ dedicated to different plants. The plants that I used were Swiss Chard, Dandelion leaves, and Comfy. In each grab bag, insert clues about the specific plant. Create clues that are either educational or that kids will have fun figuring out. Make clues visual in order to engage younger kids.
Here is an example for dandelion leaves:
- ‘Kid clue:’ 1. Most people consider this a weed and often cut it down when mowing the lawn. 2. When these seeds mature, you are able to blow them into the wind.
- Educational clue: 1. This plant is edible for humans and chickens. 2. You should eat this plant when you drink milk because all of its Vitamin K helps you absorb calcium!
Opening: Explain to children that they are going to solve a mystery to find out which plants are good to feed the chickens. Once they figure out the three plant mysteries, they will separate into groups to collect these plants as food for the chickens.
Body: Have kids take turns pulling clues from a bag. They can choose to read the clue aloud or have an adult assist them. Lead kids toward making guesses as they hear each clue. Repeat this for the three plants. When they have figured out the plants, show them a living example of each kind. Separate kids into groups to be sent off with an adult and a bucket to ‘hunt for plants’ needed to feed the chickens.
Closing: And of course, the kids love to feed the chickens! It is also good to recap the information that kids learned about plants. I did this by playing 20 questions. The leader can act as one of the plants that was taught and kids try to discover the plant by asking yes or no questions.
*If you don’t have chickens, the same exercise can be done by supplementing humans in the place of chickens. Do the same activity to discover a few plants that are good to eat for human nutrition. Allow kids to gather these plant parts and create a snack out of them or take the leaves home for a later snack.
As the Danny Woo Community Garden and Apple Corps remains busy with fun activities, we’ll keep you posted. I’m currently looking forward to developing garden education curriculum for our Children’s Garden and anticipate the sharing of many ideas!