The garden is a part of our grades curriculum program, and this is taught by the main lesson teacher. The program offers children a chance to learn the practical skills of caring for themselves and the earth while bringing to life the academic work of the classroom. The garden serves as a classroom for the early childhood, grades, and high school classes. In the early grades, the gardening curriculum emphasizes reverence for nature, care for the environment, and respect for each other. Early gardening activities foster the students’ powers of observation that become vital in later gardening years. Stories and songs are used to introduce gardening themes and jobs such as the life cycle of plants, facts of the natural world, and seasonal changes. The skills taught in gardening such as tool care and cleaning, harvesting, saving seed, and extensive weeding and bed preparation strengthen the will, support physical growth, and teach responsibility.
In third grade, gardening comes into full focus. The themes in third grade gardening include, turning feelings of separation and change into responsibility for self and world, grounding the feeling world in concrete reality, and learning to trust the interconnections of all life forms. In third grade, all practical gardening activities are taught and regularly done. This includes weeding, watering, harvesting, planting, bed preparation, and collecting compost. The children continue these tasks in later gardening years.
After the foundation of the early years, the gardening curriculum continues to expand the children’s practical skills while shifting to a focus on social responsibility and relationship of self to the world around. In the middle school, this takes the form of lessons on practical skills, food, sustainability, and Permaculture. As the children grow, the gardening curriculum meets their physical needs with more strenuous work. The students’ growing sense of independence allows for more individual projects and responsibilities. The overall hope of the gardening program at DMS is that each child takes away a sense of being needed by the world around them and practical skills they can use to fill those voids.