« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
other. To-day we are being required to put into operation in more practical ways certain of the principles which we advocate. The great need of the kindergarten to-day is the development in training-school pupils and in kindergartners of the power to apply for themselves with ever-increasing clearness and effectiveness the principles which they have accepted in theory; so that they may be able not only to give reasons of their own for the faith that is in them but to show forth their faith by their works.
MARGARET C. LAIDLAW, SUPERVISOR KINDERGARTENS,
SOUTH DISTRICT, HARTFORD, CONN.
In the spring of 1902 the strip of land south of the Wadsworth Street School was cleared of several unsightly buildings and old fences.
The land was then filled in and leveled. Here the older boys of the neighborhood felt free to indulge in their ball games; and as the property lay between two streets, it became a thoroughfare for hundreds of people on their way to and from work.
The spring of 1903 found me casting longing eyes on this ground, as an ideal spot for children's gardens, to be a part of their school opportunity.
The cultivation of the soil in natural conditions, with real tools, and the planting or sowing of one's own garden, and a close observation of results, are profitable pleasures for even very young children.
Having obtained permission to use a part of the vacant space for gardens, I called the teachers together and explained the plan. A few were most sanguine; others would try it, but knew it would be impossible to grow anything in such poor soil, or keep anything in such a public place. We decided finally to make the attempt and with the valuable help of our principal the land was measured off and sixty beds 3x5 feet with good paths were planned.
A man was hired for the first digging. I watched the earth as it was turned over, clay in some places, broken brick, plaster and stones scattered throughout.
I was repeatedly advised to give it up as they told me nothing could possibly grow there. But how could I give it up with over a hundred children asking me at every turn, “When may we make our gardens ?” or, "Are we going out to-day?"
The neighbors stood at their windows and watched proceedings. One came across the street to inquire what we were doing. She said it looked like a graveyard.
An old lady with a most puzzled expression was told we were making children's gardens. "Well, well," she said, “I've lived here forty years but I never saw the likes of that.”
The children now came with spades and rakes, eager to work, and full of the enthusiasm so lacking in their elders.
They raked the brick, plaster and all other debris out of their beds, and carried it to the piles we had started as foundations for mounds. Later these were solidly built and set out with petunia plants, which gave us a profusion of blossoms all summer.
We had barn fertilizer brought and a portion put on each garden bed.
The children were out next day working this into the earth and in about two weeks the ground. was ready for the seeds.
Lessons on seeds had previously been given in the class-rooms. How planted, whether in straight rows, hills or scattered and about different depths for different sized seeds.
The weeding, hoeing and watering, took up two or three hours a week and before school closed the children had takeno home radishes, lettuce and petunia blossoms.
The Primary teachers became very much interested as the work progressed. They had taken their classes for a walk through the gardens about once a week and noted the growth and beauty of it all. “I wish we could have this privilege," said one. “Ask for it," I replied. “Oh! do you think we could have the ground and a man to do the first digging for us?" "I am sure of it," I answered.
Then came others, "Could we have gardens for these same children next year? They will know better how to go ahead and do the work themselves by that time.”
As these requests came to our principal he willingly gave permission but feared adding another subject to take the time and strength of the Primary teacher.
In the fall the gardens were a revelation to all who had not seen nem since June. The interest of the now-Primary children was good to see and they we able to share their surprises with the new Kindergarten children who entered into all the fall activities.
The corn had to be cut and stacked, potatoes dug, beans gathered and flowers picked and carried to the different rooms.
There were many seeds to collect and put away, leaves to rake up and bulbs to plant. We were able to bring into our Kindergartens, corn with stalk, root and all, and in many ways the talks and occupations of all the grades are helped by our garden and its nature teachings.
This year our garden space was extended and sections planned for four grades. It was such a joy to feel the enthusiasm of the Primary teachers, to hear their pleasant talks with their children and to join them in their happy anticipations.
Some of them planted seeds in their window boxes early in March, to be transplanted into the gardens later.
In one room the children saved their pennies to buy plants of salvia and verbena and the teachers studied catalogues and other sources to learn which seeds would grow best in the soil of the section assigned to them, when to plant, and how to care for them.
I wish to speak particularly of the splendid work of the Primary teachers who have done so much to make the gardens a success. With the many subjects of their school curriculum, they have given the time and energy, feeling the traditional work crowding, but realizing the many benefits of this outdoor effort.
A Primary teacher was asked if the children were harder to control after the freedom of the garden. "Not if I correlate," she answered. “They are so full of the work that a reading lesson about gardens gets better attention than some other subject might.”
"The free-hand cutting of garden tools and of radishes that grew in our garden were especially well done; no doubt because so near to their interests."
Another teacher said, “I have understood and enjoyed my children better this year, and feel an improvement in my health over the closing weeks of other years."
The children worked the earth until ready for the seeds. We planted during the week beginning May 16.
Such a busy scene as it was. Many of the parents came and watched the work with evident pleasure. The teachers and older children at recess time forgot about any other recreation. The gardens were the chief interest to all.
The children's choice of seeds was very interesting. "I want to plant morning glories, as I am only here mornings to see them," said one little fellow. Another asked for radish seed because his mother liked radishes.
"I want lettuce seed, please,” said one little four year old, with no explanation; but in the afternoon I overheard his brother say, “Percy sowed lettuce seed so that his rabbit could have lots of lettuce.” Surely here was forethought.
Almost all children choose nasturtiums or sweet peas. The boys are anxious to plant pumpkin-seeds, with a jack o' lantern in mind.
It is not always possible to give entire freedom to the children in their choice of seeds. We plan to give symmetry and order to the garden as a whole, and this adds materially to the educative value of the work.
We have a large crescent shaped bed, and that with