Youngsters Get Their Hands Dirty at Olbrich’s Little Sprouts Gardening Classes | local education
PAMELA COTANT For the State Journal
Fruit trees forming an arch over an area of the Olbrich Botanical Gardens created the perfect place for children to settle down to read a book and then enjoy a snack from one of the branches.
The children and their caregivers were participating in a sprout gardening class in the children’s vegetable garden between the hockey rink and the Olbrich parking lot. Outdoor classes are an opportunity for participants to hear a story, water plants, dig in the ground, take part in a scavenger hunt and engage in hands-on learning activities about a certain subject.
Molly Scheumann of Fitchburg brought her 2-year-old son, Charlie. The usually weekly outing for them fits well with her attraction to their garden at home, she said.
“He’s very into it, and it’s pretty much perfect,” Scheumann said. “I love having kids rolling around in the dirt. That’s where I think they should be.
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The gardening classes, which are offered June through September in the Children’s Vegetable Garden, are part of Olbrich’s early childhood program called Little Sprouts. The nature and literature-based early childhood curriculum is designed to meet the multidimensional learning and developmental needs of children ages 2-5. Each class is designed for children to work side-by-side with their adult tutors, who are admitted free, as they engage in experiences that support the Early Learning Standards of the Wisconsin Model.
Little Sprouts gardening lessons focus on garden-related topics and offer children the opportunity to observe where food comes from, try fresh garden fruits and vegetables and interact with others at home. ‘outside. Participants who arrive early can take a walk in the garden beforehand.
A few weeks ago, the theme of the gardening class was “Beetles”. It all started with Sarah Ellis, Head of Youth and Family Programs, reading ‘A Beetle is Shy’ by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. Later, children could participate in a variety of beetle-themed activities or more generic gardening activities such as digging in the dirt. Other books were also laid out on a table.
Andy Eppinger and Stephanie Sierra, from Madison, brought their children, Wren, a kindergartener, and Coral, 2, to the class.
“We love this place,” Eppinger said. “We love gardens.”
Sierra said she likes how the activities are open and all organized so caregivers only have to ask the kids questions.
“The classes are perfectly kid-friendly,” Sierra said.
Eppinger wasn’t the only parent to say that lessons stay with their children, who will talk about what they learn later.
Kindergarten Willa Novak, from Monona, came with her mother, Katie, and her two sisters – Luna, 3, and Isla, 6 weeks.
“I like to do everything,” said Willa, who especially loves arts and crafts.
Olbrich volunteer Karen Riese said Raavan Gopakumar, who will be in 4K at Monona, was a good help given the time he spent watering the plants with an elephant-shaped watering can.
Several grandparents brought their grandchildren, including Susan Moore, from McFarland, who came with her grandson Jacob Schuster, a kindergartener. Grandparents Todd and Marybeth Friske, of Fitchburg, said they first brought kindergarten Rowan Parker but often bring 2-year-old Ellis Parker.
Sue Wesenberg of McFarland said she brings her grandson, Ezra Dommershausen, 3, once a week as a play date for them.
“He likes nature stuff. He likes insects. He likes to learn,” she said.
Ezra – who wore a T-shirt that said “Bug Expert” and featured a number of insects, including beetles – said ladybugs and fireflies were his favorites.
The rest of the year, from October to May, the early childhood classes are called Little Sprouts Story & Stroll and take place in the classrooms of the Frautschi Family Learning Center. The main garden space around the large lawn is used for scavenger hunts in good weather, then the scavenger hunts are moved to the veranda in the colder months. Little Sprouts Gardening and Little Sprouts Story & Stroll feature story time, age-appropriate hands-on activities and a scavenger hunt.
“The aim of the classes is to give children and their caregivers the opportunity to spend time exploring nature-themed topics while engaging with materials including books, sensory activities, play, art and plant material from the gardens,” Ellis said. “We hope to foster a connection with nature and inspire a love for learning about the environment.”
“I love having kids rolling around in the dirt. That’s where I think they should be.
Molly Scheumannfrom Fitchburg, mother of Charlie, 2 years old