LSU College of Agriculture students helped transform areas of a preschool playground into gardens.
The students in professor Ed Bush’s nursery management class adopted the garden at the LSU Child
Development Laboratory Preschool as a service-learning project.
They planted one section with Louisiana crops, such as blueberries, sugarcane and soybeans. They also planted flowers and an herb garden, which they let the youngsters help plant.
Preschool director Angela Barnes said they wanted to do something with a garden but weren’t sure what to plant.
“We wanted to incorporate learning with gardening and teach them how to care for nature and plants,” Barnes said.
Kerry Sheldon, lead instructor at the preschool, is calling the gardens their Cajun cooking gardens. She said they plan to use what they grow.
“Our first plan is to get vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips and add the pineapple mint to make mint chip ice cream,” Sheldon said. Another planned project is to use the herbs to make scented playdough.
Sheldon said the garden fits in with the school’s philosophy of letting the children guide their own learning.
She said students will care for the garden and incorporate math concepts by measuring the plants as they grow. The garden also will serve as inspiration for art projects.
“The garden allows us to pull in all kinds of goals and objectives – social emotional, turn taking, science, math and art,” she said.
Cora McGehee, a senior studying plant and soil systems, said it was fun working with the children.
“I hope they get a taste of what goes into making a flower bed and some very basic applied science,” McGehee said.
Each student worked with a child to help plant, mulch and water the beds.
Gabrielle LaBiche, a junior studying plant and soil systems said her helper was enthusiastic. “She liked getting her hands dirty,” LaBiche said. “It was fun getting to share this experience with a younger generation.”
Pam Blanchard, a professor in the LSU School of Education, worked with the preschool and Bush’s class to get the garden growing. Blanchard said faculty with expertise in social studies and early childhood education will look at how the Louisiana garden provides an interface for the youngsters to learn about Louisiana’s economic crops.
Blanchard said, “This particular garden was designed so that plants can be interchanged as the seasons change and different crops are being harvested or planted.”
Blanchard added, “For instance, at the moment, blueberries, soybeans and sugarcane are three of the crops that were installed by Dr. Bush’s students. We hope to have sweet potatoes, rice, sorghum, cotton and corn in the future.”
Blanchard added that plans are to expand the gardens to a third area of the playground.