CC Student Uses Garden to Teach Sustainability

Emma Markland ’25

I have always been passionate about working with children. I love watching them learn and discover the world. And, similar to many Colorado College students, I find myself happier when I am outside. During Block 8 of 2023, my sophomore year at CC, I was looking for a way to connect these two together. I had been a student worker with the Children’s Center in the Preschool 1 classroom (ages two and half to five) for about a year and I wanted to enhance both my learning and the children’s through something new. Also, being involved with Outdoor Education at CC, I’ve frequently walked by the empty, defunct raised garden beds sitting in front of the Outdoor Ed building, just two buildings down from the Children’s Center. This sparked an idea, and I started on a proposal for a shared garden that the Children’s Center classes could tend to. After sharing my proposal with my director, I got approval to move forward with the next steps of creating a CC Children’s Center edible garden.

The growing season was about to begin, so we had to move fast. I filled up Preschool 1’s schedule with preparing the ground for plants and pulling weeds. The Education Department had recently developed a grant that I could take advantage of, and I started on the application process. While putting together the necessary materials to apply for the grant, I studied Colorado’s Early Learning and Development Guidelines to further understand how I could implement steps to meet developmental milestones with the kids throughout the lifecycle of the garden. The other teachers at the center and I could work in more than enough of these skills. I focused most of my attention on social-emotional skills and how we could teach about caring for plants while building deeper relationships with each other. I also focused on vocabulary use. It’s important to introduce new words to children often and the garden project was perfect for this. We used words like “sustainability,” “compost,” and “microorganisms” when we talked in our preparation stage. This, like social-emotional, is a continuing skill.

I applied to the Education Department’s newly developed funding grant, and once it was approved, the garden project went from idea to reality. The kids were so excited after visiting the garden and wanted to get planting. While we continued prepping the garden beds, we started growing seeds in our classroom window so the kids could keep a close eye on them, which led to many questions about the growing process. Through the generous grant, we were able to get new children’s books that discussed growing our own food, starting a garden, and being sustainable. These children’s books were essential to introducing the new topic and helped answer many big questions the kids had.

Once the weeds had been pulled, the soil prepared, and the plants purchased, the day finally came to fill our garden. The children were so excited to be putting plants into the ground. It was hard for them to comprehend that, while the tomato plants were small to start, they would soon grow much larger, so we needed to plant them further apart. Small discussions such as these helped their minds begin to connect the dots and make sense of the garden and its plants. As the plants grew, they took true ownership of the garden, and could not wait to see how things had changed from the previous visits. While this garden is certainly lots of fun for me, the other teachers, and the children, the true purpose of this was to add real-life learning opportunities. And it certainly has! It shows in the classroom, such as when the children are throwing away their food after a snack or meal, they often choose to place the waste in the compost versus the landfill bin. While this skill is one we are continuously working on, the children have already shown growth. We are even developing handwriting capabilities every week as we use our garden journals to watch the progress of our plants. I am excited for these real-world skills to keep showing up as we continue the project.

A young white woman with short red hair wearing pants and a tank top stands barefooted on red rocks with mountains in the background.
Emma Markland ’25.

Do you have young kids at home? Do you want to get them interested in gardening and sustainability?

  • Jacks Garden by Henry Cole
  • Me, Toma, and the Concert Garden by Andrew Larsen
  • My Delicious Garden by Anne-Marie-Fortin