Early Years Numeracy… in Planting

iStock_gardenAt 3,2,1, Fun! we explore numbers through play, stories, and rhymes with children 3-5 years old and their parents. Learning about sequences is important to children’s ability to grasp the concept that numbers have a special order.

We can demonstrate sequences by using a recipe, or step-by-step instructions. Another way is to say, “first we do this,” using words to describe the first step, “then we do that.”

There are plenty of opportunities to use simple numeracy concepts in planting activities, whether you are planting in a pot, the ground, or seedlings from another method. Recently in 3,2,1, Fun! we planted a variety of seeds inside a plastic glove.

First we compared the seeds—discussing the different sizes, shapes, and colours, and how some represented more visually the food they grow into. For example, watermelon seeds are familiar to us because we see the seeds in the fruit we eat. We tried sorting the seeds into big, medium, and small, and by shape. How many big ones? Then we planted the seeds—squash, pumpkin, bean, marigold, cucumber, watermelon, carrot, and sunflower—in our garden gloves.

You can also use the opportunity to discuss what plants need to grow (water, sunlight, etc).

Supplies needed for a garden glove:

  • A plastic glove (the kind you would use in food preparation)
  • Cotton balls
  • Water
  • Variety of seeds
  • Twist tie
  • Marker

GLOVE-garden

Steps:

  1. Soak five cotton balls in water, squeeze out the excess water
  2. Put a wet cotton ball in each of the glove fingers and thumb
  3. Add a seed to each cotton ball
  4. Write down the name of each seed on the glove finger where it was planted; you can add the date if you like
  5. Twist tie it shut at the top
  6. Hang the glove in a window that gets a lot of sun
  7. Wait to see what grows

It really works! As plants grow, or germinate, we have more opportunities with the children to observe the changes and compare them. Some seedlings have more shoots than others; some grow quicker than others. Watch for changes and see what happens. Sometimes something goes wrong and nothing happens, but we can be scientists and repeat the experiment to see if the results change.

Try journaling what you observe. Your children can draw the pictures and you can scribe the words for them.

Later on, you can transplant your seedlings into pots of soil or into a garden. Some children have already planted their new seedlings into their home gardens.

Good luck growing!

The Spring 3,2,1,Fun! program will be ending mid-June, but please phone the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton at 780-421-7323 for more information or visit our website www.famlit.ca

The End of Winter Means a New Garden… Yes, it Will Happen!

Eventually it will warm up and our thoughts may turn to planting a garden – at least one can always hope. Over the winter I debated about how to do my garden this year. I always have a ton of weeds and not enough time to keep up, but I still like having a garden. To find a solution, I went “digging” for information.

I found an idea that I’d previously disregarded because I have always done my garden the way my mom did hers when I was little. But if I want to get rid of weeds without using chemicals, the easiest thing to do would be to just cover up the garden. I’ve decided to compromise and cover half the garden with containers to kill the weeds – especially after finding this neat growing tip.

What is this brilliant idea? Well, normally part of my garden is potatoes and they take up a lot of room. This idea takes that horizontal space and makes it vertical – you go up instead of out, using much less space! Growing potatoes vertically also seems like a fun way to garden. How is it done? This website has some instructions:

http://www.kiddiegardens.com/growing_potatoes_in_tires.html

What does this have to do with literacy? The potato garden will be a project with my kids this summer. If we decide to use tires, as suggested, there will definitely be some decorating to do. We will have to decide whether we need weed cloth under the containers. We will need to figure out how many tire containers to plant. We will measure the potato plants regularly so we know when we have to put on more dirt. We will need to figure out how much water to give them and when. All of this is going to use a lot of vocabulary, numeracy and creativity.

The other thing we will do is read a great book called The Enormous Potato by Aubrey Davis. Asking questions about what my kids think will happen when our potatoes are ready to be harvested will be a fun way to tie in the book. Also, we’ll talk about what we’ll do with the potatoes at the end and look up recipes for a great way to close the project in the fall.

As I said in my last post – there will be an end to winter and a time to start planting. Have fun with your children, get dirty, and make it a literacy rich experience!

 

Time to Plant a Seed…

It’s that time of year when those of us who like gardening start making a plan.  What will we grow?  Where should we put it?  Is it safe to plant on the May long weekend (here’s hoping for no more snow)?

As it gets closer to the time, I’ve realized there can be a lot of literacy and numeracy involved in planting a garden – especially when you’ve got your kids helping you!

 My kids want their own garden, of course.  They choose seeds and we talk about whether they will grow well or not.  For example, we have some kind of critter that takes bites out of our carrots while they’re still in the ground – do we choose something else?  My son is also into herbs right now, so we talk about the different ways we could use them in cooking when they are ready.

We also plan out the garden so the seeds have the right amount of space, light, and soil.   We really have to think through how they grow and what the package is telling us – especially if it’s something we’ve never tried before.

Then comes the best part – the planting! We make our rows using two stakes and a string so they’re evenly spaced (at least that’s the hope – I think my garden is crooked). We plant the seeds the right distance apart, cover them, water them and then wait.

 When my kids were younger, we made a game of naming all the weeds that grow more quickly than our little plants. We’ve got the stinky one (stinkweed), the sticky, tangley one (not sure what it really is), the ouchie one (thistles), and the pretty yellow one that everyone is so determined to get rid of, but our guinea pigs love to eat (poor dandelions). That’s only a few of them, but you get the idea and I still use these names, even though the kids are older now!

These types of interactions and experiences help us reinforce the learning that is happening naturally, every day, in our lives as a family. I find myself learning right along with my kids in each situation – they have such a great view of what we do (and are much more patient in reading instructions most of the time). Gardening is just one way to help plant a seed that will sprout into so much more in our lives. Happy planting!