Growing a Green Generation
The Growing a Green Generation Project (GGG) is an interdisciplinary research, curriculum and community outreach effort of the Child Study and Development Center (CSDC) at the University of New Hampshire, focused on engaging young children, families and teachers in the joy of gardening.
Our mission is to advance understanding of the importance of horticulture to human beings in New Hampshire and regionally through tapping into the curiosity of our youngest citizens, both directly through their participation and indirectly through the education of their teachers and families.
A unique feature of our curriculum has been the input over the years from both plant professionals and experts in early childhood education including collaboration between the Department of Plant Biology, the Child Study and Development Center (CSDC) and Cooperative Extension at the University of New Hampshire.
Curriculum Development in the Community Learning Garden
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The Community Learning Garden at CSDC, designed and planted by the children each year, provides a focal point for the development of gardening curricula and the documentation of experiences to be shared with others. Growing a Green Generation is a living curriculum that is constantly being refined as projects in our curriculum are field-tested by teachers in the garden at the CSDC in Durham. Our GGG handbook of activities, developed over the course of several growing seasons, offers a diverse range of field-tested experiences for young children. Currently we are working on a revised handbook that will feature our more recent work with infants and toddlers.
Our gardening project at the CSDC includes children in the planning, construction, planting and harvest of the garden as part of a long-term investigation. Throughout the year children ages infant through kindergarten participate in a horticulture and plant science curriculum that is responsive to their questions, theories and interests. During winter the children utilize indoor container gardens to study how plants grow and when spring arrives we begin the collaborative process of brainstorming ideas, plants and structures for the outdoor Learning Garden. Throughout the summer children engage in cooking, experiments and research.
Sharing Our Harvest of Ideas
UNH students participating in the project are learning through the opportunity to be mentored by experienced teachers and to develop and test new curricula. This project also serves to disseminate information through presentations, a conference, publications, and consultation services that can support an awareness of horticulture in early childhood programs, school environments, and youth gardening projects throughout the region.
Why is gardening with children important?
Children develop an interest in science if introduced at a young age.
- Gardening helps children learn science, math, problem solving and other skills in an active, fun and meaningful way.
- Urbanization means children are isolated from farming and where their food comes from
- Children are more likely to try healthy foods if they participate in the growing process.
- Diversity in nature lends to conversations about the diversity in our society.
- Today's children are tomorrow's environmental stewards.
The project began in 2000 with the efforts and expertise of plant biologists Dr. Paul Fisher and Dr. Rosanna Freyre and extension specialist Dot Perkins, with additional input from a team of horticulture and education students (Laura Broderick, Tracie Smith, Maria Sorrento, Cami Esmel, and Lindsay Boyer). In 2005, the first Growing a Green Generation one-day conference on the joys of gardening with young children was offered and has now reached close to 300 educators from throughout the New England region. Since 2007 the project has been coordinated by Beth Hallett, an early childhood teacher at the Child Study and Development Center (CSDC). In 2008, the CSDC designed and constructed a unique natural playground that created a link with our gardening project and from 2008-2010, the GGG collaborated with the Early Sprouts project under the direction of Dr. Karrie Kalich from Keene State College. This research project extended our work to include a focus on children’s nutrition through cooking in the classroom and at home. In addition to our conference, GGG outreach efforts have included national and state conference presentations and various publications, including our popular curriculum handbook. We are currently working on a major revision of the handbook to include curriculum for infants and toddlers.
Since 2000 we have received annual funding for coordination, conference costs, materials, and curriculum development from the Anna and Raymond Tuttle Environmental Horticulture Endowment.
Generous support has come from the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. In particular, we have been assisted by David Goudreault, assistant greenhouse manager, who provides space for our seedlings in the UNH Greenhouses and by John McLean - Manager of UNH Horticulture Farms, and his staff who have provided backup support to keep our garden healthy and beautiful. We have received feedback and piloting assistance on the GGG curriculum from other sites including the Child and Family Development Center at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. StandUp Gardens Inc of New Hampshire has provided us with container gardens for growing plants and seedlings indoors.
In 2011 we received a two year grant from the HNH Foundation to provide scholarships for teachers serving low-income communities to attend our conference and to receive follow-up consultation, as well to support student interns as part of our ongoing curriculum development.