Thursday, May 15, 2014

From yoga to gardening

From Yoga to Gardening

In my last post, Yoga is in Everything, I tried to give you a glimpse of how yoga can be brought into school and life in many ways.  As summer approaches, yoga time at The Little School will be transitioning to gardening and care for our living things.  The Duke campus has already had a very successful Garden Day and coming up this Saturday, May 17, the Hillsborough campus will be having their Garden Day.  Garden days at The Little School have always been one of my favorite times.  Families, teachers, staff and children come together to volunteer their time and skills to plant the annual gardens and improve the school grounds.  

Sam waters a Dill plant.
Gardening is a natural extension of yoga in so many ways.  Yoga is a tool to empower kids to learn how to listen to and care for their bodies and emotions.  Gardening teaches them to observe and care for other living things.  In yoga, we have been learning to turn our focus inward, into our bodies so that we can learn about ourselves, our abilities, our emotions and our needs.  In gardening we learn to look at the plants and the soil and to think about what THEY need. The kids begin to think about how to nurture something outside themselves.  Gardening provides simple visual cues that let kids know about the well-being of  another living thing.  Kids can look at a plant and see that it's leaves are brown and drooping and learn to recognize that it needs water.  One week after Garden day at the Little School at Duke, one poor plant, a Hardy Kiwi,
Lincoln carefully waters the roots
of the Sugar Cane plant
 wasn't doing so well.  After talking about this with the kids one day, the next time we went out to garden, guess where all the kids brought their water?  Yep.  To the Hardy
Kiwi plant (FYI no plant can truly be hardy until it has established itself with extra care for at least 2 weeks after being transplanted).  While the survival of this one plant remains in a delicate balance, the kids are learning a valuable lesson.  Some living things don't survive.  The teachers become a part of this living learning experience along with the kids as many questions arise.  What happened to the plant?  Will it be better tomorrow?  What happens if we give all of our water to that one plant and don't water our other plants?  And so on and so on.

The empowering part comes when young kids realize that they can easily give the plants something to help them grow.  In order to make Gardening accessible to the kids at the Duke campus, I have been filling water bins and letting the kids fill up old water-bottles to take to the plants and give them some water.  Each class has
Mia and Sylvie water the herbs
gardens nearby but all of the gardens on the grounds belong to everyone.  So, sometimes the kids may be watering the gardens on their playground.  Other times, we will go help the gardens in another area.  Meeting other teachers and seeing other classes along the way adds to the sense of community that it such a vital part of the Little School.  As a group from the Grasshopper class, 3-4 year-olds, helped water the infant garden area, one child, Finn saw his little sister peeking out the window from her classroom.  He immediately went over and they started waving and playing at the window.

Natalie waters Lavendar
on the infant playspace.  
As we journey to the gardens together, the kids have many questions.  We talk about how the plant needs the water at the base of its stem so that the water goes to the plants' roots.  We talk about the different types of plants and what they give us.  "I know a plant that can make you feel calm," boasted Piper one day as we walked to care for the garden.   She thought about it and couldn't quite remember its name.  Another child, Petra, tried to help her and said, "Mint."  Already these kids are beginning to recognize the plants and are creating relationships with the plants.  These kids had obviously been gardening at home and were able to bring this experience and share it with their friends at
school.  The first plant they all seem to be able to identify is Basil.  Dill and Fennel are easily mistaken for each other (a mistake I even make sometimes) because of their feathery leaves.  But each day, they know a little more and are able to use their knowledge and share it with others, building strength to our community of gardeners.

Do these plants belong to us?  Yes and no.  They are part of our surroundings and we help care for them.  But their care and gifts are shared with Mother Nature, our greater Earth community.  The kids begin to see rain as a good thing for our plants.  The sun takes on new meaning.  A child named Holden picks a Honeysuckle flower and tastes its nectar.  As we leave to return to his class, he asks if he can pick more flowers to take home with him.  I remind him that the bees and hummingbirds love the flowers, too, and we should probably leave some for them.

Is this the end of yoga!  A big emphatic, No!  This is just outdoor yoga and more.  Our minds, bodies, and community are simply being extended into the great outdoors.  We can still do our Tree poses, our big balloon breaths, and our animal poses anytime.  I have heard from many teachers and parents that yoga has inspired kids in many ways and that they are using it in their classrooms and home.  I will continue classroom yoga officially in the fall.  Until then, we will be enjoying our time in small groups in the gardens!

Piper waters the chocolate mint.
Erin Kroll
Yoga, Gardening, and Outdoor Learning
P.S. - I welcome your comments and questions.  If you would like to contact me, please e-mail me at