[Guest post by Samantha Benoit]
The Ayer Library has been hosting a weekly story-time every Thursday for many years, it is during this time that we, as a librarians, try to expose this rambunctious group of toddlers to a variety of life experiences. With the introduction of STEM the library has been trying to incorporate science based events into its weekly story-time program. In early spring we had the idea to plant a garden with kids, and give them the experience of caring for, and growing plants.
The inspiration for this program stemmed from a number of families who lamented the fact they would not be able to plant a garden of their own. Many of the families in Ayer rent either apartments or houses, and cannot cultivate gardens on their property. Most of the staff however grew-up having gardens, and learned how to care for and harvest plants. We thought that planting a garden at the library would be a way to provide this learning experience for the kids, and it fit in nicely with the STEM programming we had been encouraging.
We had decided upon a raised bed for the garden, for easy maintenance, and so we would not have to ruin the library’s lawn. The bed is 4ftx6ft, and 7in. deep, and made from a few boards of untreated wood, and was built by the library staff. We lined the bottom with newspaper to prevent the grass from growing through, and then it was filled with soil. When buying plants for the garden, we kept in mind that we wanted the kids to interact with the plants, so a variety of vegetables were purchased, as well as herbs that had distinctive smells. From this planning we have a number of easy to grow vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, green beans and cucumbers, as well as herbs like mint, rosemary and lavender.
There were two programs running on the day of planting, one where a small group of kids planted and another where the kids were able to learn about worms. Since worms are essential to a garden’s health, we felt it was important of the kids to be able to have some hands on experience with them. This also broke up the group into two smaller and much easier to handle groups for planting. The worms were later released into the garden. Many of the kids loved planting the garden and continue to check on it each week. They like to report on how big their plants have grown. The parents have also shown an interest in the garden’s progress, which is encouraging. Other patrons have been asked to become involved in this project, we leave watering cans by the garden so that everyone can help take care of it. We have tried to make this a community effort, and it has been very successful, and we will definitely continue this project in the next few years.
Samantha Benoit, MLIS – Young Adult Librarian
Amy Leonard, M.Ed – Children’s Librarian
Christina Zoller – Assistant Children’s Librarian