What do you get when you group together about a dozen 2- to 4-year-olds and teach them to grow produce that they can turn into lunch? “Cuteness overload.” At least that’s how camp teachers Angela Lazarony and Lisa Reynolds describe it. The second installment of Cooking and Gardening camp at The New Century School started the last week of July and continues through the second week of August. This one is led by Mrs. Reynolds with TNCS Spanish teacher Yurisan Gonzalez assisting. Campers spend most of the morning outside, usually in TNCS’s on-premise greenhouse. They learn to cultivate vegetables and fruit, and they also create recipes with the ingredients they harvest. All in all, they are learning about healthy eating habits while enjoying getting their hands dirty!
The first week of the 2-week camp included such projects as making sun tea, learning about the various kinds of gardens (potted, urban, greenhouse, herb, flower, vegetable, etc.), drying herbs and making tea bags, learning the parts of a flower and sculpting “anatomically correct” versions with clay, and making so-called “clean dirt” with dish detergent and shredded toilet paper rolls. Each of these projects included a learning component coupled with a hands-on experience, which is how kids learn best. With the clean dirt, for example, which has the consistency of mud, kids were able to enjoy a sensorial experience while engaging in a practical application, although it cannot be used for actual gardening. They sculpted with their clean dirt and practiced working with it. Mrs. Reynolds herself designed the projects. “I really enjoy cooking and gardening,” she said, “and so do the kids. We are having a lot of fun—they get so excited about each activity!”
Week 1 culminated with a Teddy Bear Picnic (hence the aforementioned cuteness overload). For the picnic, Mrs. Reynolds’ and Mrs. Lazarony’s campers joined forces, and there was a perfect riot of plush animals also in attendance. Picnic fare consisted of a bounty of fruits, a salad, and veggie sandwiches. As a special contribution, Mrs. Reynolds’ campers concocted a salad dressing, mostly from greenhouse ingredients. Who came up with recipe? They did. “It’s a little on the sweet side,” said Mrs. Reynolds, “but actually pretty good!” Peppermint, vinegar, sugar, lemon, oil, bananas (!), etc. all went into the blender and out came a lovely green emulsion. The kids did a taste test to make sure their dressing was suitable for sharing.
After eating their snacks, games and crafts closed out the Teddy Bear Picnic. Campers raced with (toy) eggs in wooden spoons, made parachutes for their plushies, and played other field day–type games. Everyone was awarded a blue ribbon. Using artichokes as stamps, they also painted flowers. Clever!
With Cooking and Gardening Camp off to such a great start, Week 2 promises to continue growing the fun!