Publications

Gardening Activity Guide

Natural Learning Initiative

The Gardening Activity Guide is designed to expose young children to seasonal fruit and vegetable gardening in childcare centers. Based on the Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) model, the guide provides a resource for teachers to encourage children’s physical activity and outdoor learning through gardening and related activities. The underlying goal is to counteract the early onset of health challenges associated with sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits, and lack of contact with nature. The Gardening Activity Guide assumes that centers have already installed a designated, raised-bed fruit and vegetable garden and seek ideas about how to use it as a vehicle for learning. The Gardening Activity Guide provides a structured approach consisting of two main sections:

  1. Gardening Activities

The Gardening Activities section contains three phases covering 12 garden-related learning processes seen in the table. Each gardening process includes supporting activities to stimulate experiential learning inspired by the North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development (2013). Appendix A contains Our Gardening Activities Calendar, provided for teachers and children to record daily and weekly interactions related to each gardening process. Guided by the teacher, children are encouraged to see themselves as active participants in weekly documentation by checking off garden processes and recording activities.

  1. Time to Harvest

The Time to Harvest section provides helpful tips for harvesting selected warm season fruits and vegetables and cool season vegetables in designated childcare center gardens. Time to Harvest covers how to evaluate the maturity of specific fruits and vegetables, judge their readiness for harvest, and ways to incorporate them in recipes or activities.

Childcare centers are encouraged to grow additional fruits and vegetables not covered here and continue inventing fun, engaging learning activities focused on gardening processes. Contact your local Cooperative Extension agent to learn which fruits and vegetables grow well in your area.