The time kids get enough learning experiences before kindergarten is the same time pigs fly. That is why the mascot for the Collaboration for Early Childhood is Cece, the flying pig. Within their Growing Gardeners Program, kids can learn problem-solving skills, STEM concepts and team building during their most formative years.
“Gardening is such a great anchor for pretty much anything you want to work on with kids,” said Becki Streit, the Collaborations board chair.
However, many families do not have the resources to build a garden at home, said Streit.
Determined to make a change, the Albrecht-Poss Family Foundation funded the gardening program which provided 11 preschools, childcare centers and home daycare centers with the tools and abilities to build their own garden. Each raised bed was installed by professionals and carefully crafted from cedar to ensure longevity and sustainability for each of their partners.
“We wanted to ensure our partners would be able to use these gardens for years and years,” said Streit.
The program also supplied each partner with a composting system, gardening tools, plants, seeds, a curriculum to keep consistent across all locations and get this — 2,000 live worms. The gardening program helps kids learn everyday environmental practices while seeing the fruits of their labor — literally. After receiving the Green Award and being recognized by the Village of Oak Park, Streit said she did “a little happy dance.”
“The more people who know about the project and the more interest there is among our early childhood community, the farther out we can push the opportunities for other preschools and daycare centers to give kids those experiences,” said Streit.
The program hopes to expand by adding more partners and wheeled garden carts for spaces with limited green space.