by Meghan Fitzgerald
This Spring, our curriculum centers around four themes, one of which is seeds. Metaphorically, we are always planting seeds of inspiration for new play adventures and new ways to connect with nature in the minds of each child. But, this season, we added a literal study of seeds, and we are thrilled to see what families are bringing to and pulling from our #PlantASeed project.
What is the #PlantASeed project?
By design, it’s quite simple. In the first class, we gave each family a packet of seeds and some directions about how to plant and nurture them into seedlings. Then, we all waited, watched and observed the magical moment when brave, green sprouts poked up through the soil. We’ve been watching photos of these marvelous seedlings circulate within class communities and on Instagram (#Tinkergarten #PlantASeed). The learning continues as families tend to, observe, and even make plans for their seedlings as they grow.
What can you teach (and learn) from planting seeds with young kids?
There is much to learn from this project, and you truly do not have to have a green thumb to make the experience transformative for your little sprouts. Here are just a few of the lessons we’ve pulled from planting seeds as a family:
Sensory stimulation: Children activate multiple senses in when they prep the soil, investigate seeds, water or mist the soil, and observe the bright green seedlings.
Patience: So many experiences are quickly, if not instantly, gratifying these days. But, watching a pot of soil for the appearance of a tiny seedling still happens on nature’s time. Just like the little boy in Ruth Crauss’s Carrot Seed, children can see that patience pays off, as that moment when you finally see green is like magic.
STEM skills: Even young children can get exposed to biology concepts and terms in an age-appropriate way by observing seedings. Also, when you stop each day to observe, talk about, and even document what you notice is happening with your seedlings, you also model how to think and act like a scientist. Children are born with the curiosity and penchant to learn through observation, and this kind of project teaches how to use these behaviors in an investigative way.
Responsibility: When you make it a family ritual to water the seedlings each day, children gain experience with caring for another living thing and learn that they have agency in supporting their seeds.
Serenity and reverence: Some seedlings thrive, transplant well and go on to be healthy plants. Many do not. The same is true in nature. Read Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed once, and it’s a celebration of the persistence of the tiny seed. Read it again, and you realize that the majority of seeds in the book never get a chance—such is true in nature.
So, if your seedlings do not persist, that is okay. In fact, it’s a great lesson about life. It may also be a reminder to you, and even to your wee ones, that every plant we see around us has a truly remarkable survival story—most of the seeds of their kind did not make it. When you think about that, each plant we see in our environment is an even bigger marvel than before.
Get and stay involved in the project!
If you are not part of the Spring Tinkergarten season, you can still share in this project. Check out our “Planting Seeds” DIY activity and try it at home. If you are already underway, you may be wondering, “Okay, our seeds sprouted, but now what?” Here are some options for how to learn with kids, once your seedlings are up:
What next for seedlings?
Seedlings can be hard to nurture into full plants, but worry not, there is much to learn no matter which path your seedlings take. Some options:
Extending the learning:
Harvest and taste the plants, if edible.
Try this marvelous fruit seed investigation from Scientific American’s Science Buddies.
Learn more through literature by reading books like Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, or How Groundhog’s Garden Grew by Lynned Cherry.
Start to learn together about trees, nature’s greatest teachers.
Try again with a new variety of seeds!
I’m active in many different roles that make me proud. Aside from Tinkergarten, I’m working on a project with my husband for our non-profit, Soup, which focuses on using design, tech and community development for social good. We also oversee another project of ours, called Blocks, which lands prefab units (i.e. shipping containers) into California and onto properties to increase the supply of affordable housing in the Bay Area. We’ve installed three units in the past six months and hope to set up 12 more in the Bay Area this year. We’ve worked hard to build momentum for the project and to find ways to tangibly serve families in need.
What does a perfect day look like to you?
A perfect day would be getting my squirmy 16-month-old son into the car seat so we could actually get out! And once that happens, a great day would be heading to the trails in the beautiful mountains along Skyline ridge, a visit to Filoli gardens, or just finding any open patch of green to explore with my family. Any piece of nature qualifies, to me, as my safe and sacred space.
What piece of advice has proven most helpful to you as a parent?
Academics can wait. Let your child enjoy, play and explore. Brain integration doesn’t happen until age six, so don’t rush the academic process!