The Maplewood Richmond Heights Early Childhood Center recently opened their Farm Friends and Seed to Table education program to a group of young children of S. M. Wilson employees for an afternoon of hands-on learning. The kids spent the afternoon meeting and feeding the center’s chickens and miniature donkeys and touring the site’s vegetable gardens, orchards and small prairie to learn where our food comes from and the role of plants and animals. The kids even made their own snack of salad and dressing with items they picked and prepared from the garden.
The afternoon ‘at the farm’ for S. M. Wilson kids was made possible through the company’s ongoing sponsorship of the Farm Friends program at the Early Childhood Center (ECC). The Farm Friends program creates an interactive student-learning center for animal health and care, symbiotic relationships with humans, nutrition and more. During the school year, animals are rotated into the lesson plan for a week at a time. Each week, for seven weeks total, students meet a new pair of adopted animals – ranging from donkeys, pigs and ducks – and learn something new about each species.
The Farm Friends program began in May 2011 as an extension of the District’s renowned Seed to Table program, which utilizes a garden located at the ECC to teach students in preschool through first grade about parts of plants, life cycles, symbiotic relationships and, most importantly, nutrition.
Throughout the year, teachers use the program and facility as an integral tool to help students understand where food comes from and how plants and animals are used to make many things in our everyday lives. For example, the small prairie on the site enables students to roll and rake hay and then transport it to the barn to feed the animals. They learn the difference between hay and straw and how both are important to the needs of animals (hay is dried grass and is what the animals eat, straw is for animal bedding).
“The program was started to help children understand how animals help us,” says Almut Marino, coordinator of the “Seed to Table” program. “For the students, the animals are more than just a lesson plan… they are part of the class. The kids love the animals.”
“It is important that our kids understand that food does not just come from the grocery store, but that it comes from plants and animals that provide humans with vital nutritional content,” says Marino. “This program bridges the learning gap for city kids in a fun way.”