This spring quarter I volunteered with a program at UC Davis called "Kids in the Garden." It was so incredible, I don't even know where to begin. Every Tuesday morning I got to lead a group of elementary school children around the garden and orchard and teach them about where their food comes from. We would pick food to eat, run around and play ladybug-and-aphid-tag, poke through compost looking for worms, and chase the chickens.
The children's garden at UC Davis is old and established, with fruit trees, vegetable patches, and ornamental plantings. And it helps that the weather here in California is gorgeous (at least in the spring) and there is always something for us to eat and play with. For example, during the last few Tuesdays the cherries were ripening and weighing down the boughs of the tree with pounds of juicy redness.
The garden is well designed too, with lots of open spaces for the kids to run, and sitting areas for us to calm down and do some learning.
There are also a few animal residents, who are always very popular with the kids.
I volunteered for this program because of an existing interest in environmental education and a growing interest in children's gardens specifically. I also missed having children in my life (no time for babysitting in grad school), so Tuesday mornings were my kid fix for the week. And they loved it too. We got some beautiful thank you cards, some watercolors like the one below, and some paper murals as well. I even got some thank you notes of my very own!
I actually got about 15 of them. I've transcribed my favorites for you below (verbatim):
It was fun when we were checing if any chickens were laying an egg but one was Heidi saw it and a lot were trying to run away from us and to get out of there cage but they can't.
Thank you fer having sutch a grat time with us. Did you had fun on tuesday? I had a great time piking all those flawers ot the grownd i hope i cude go back agin and visit.
"Deer Erica thank you for doing the garted and piking the grens and doing the werm theng. it wus a lot of fun.
A few of them even made their way onto the fridge. Here's the best one. I think Logan really gets it.
"Dear Erica thank you for teaching us flowers and leting us see the chicens. and doing stuff we never did.
And that's what it's all about. Being introduced to something new. I loved doing this program, it became the thing I looked forward to all week. And it helped solidify some ideas I've had floating around in my head about the path my own future will take. It will definitely involve kids, and gardens.