An otherwise untold story of community building and belonging, of differentiation and application of skills learned in the classroom.
By Daniela Fiess
I have just taken a Special Education course on Literacy and Numeracy with Shelley. Reflecting back on some of the themes we touched as the foundations for inclusion and learning, I remember a visit to a small rural school sometime in April that I would love to share with you.
On Earth Day everybody from K to 12 was out and about. I joined the K/1 and 2/3 classes and their high school assistants in the school yard. Some beds were already dug and the K/1 group each was assigned a little patch for their own design. Their teacher, as each child was with her, marked the patch by carefully drawing their first name letters in the moist soil—she had full attention. All seeds were bagged with pictures and sorted alphabetically, a perfect opportunity for each child to find their favourite flower or vegetable. Little flags would carry the names of the seeds in the beds, carefully copied from their packages by each child.
Proudly they watered their patches. The high school students were fully involved carrying watering cans, helping read seed packs and label, weeding the beds—they were fully put in a caretaking position for the youngest ones and completely responsible.
In the meantime, the Grade 2/3 group dug up a soon-to-be potato patch, a paradise for the boys with shovels and forks. They learned about collaboration, giving space and being careful while taking turns, sharing their tools, cleaning them and putting them where they belong, a courtesy to next ones to use them. Healthy soil and worms were another source of entertainment and a full highlight was the little frog caught by one of the teachers for the children to admire.
The garden was a fabulous opportunity for all teachers to observe as the children were immersed in their jobs. Some needed the full sensory input—they became one with the soil—others couldn’t stand having dirty hands and so carefully and timidly dug around the soil. Some planted the seeds with a system, others enjoyed placing them like in a piece of art, some use lots, some use little, some complained (and then got over it) and some just loved it.
Things didn’t get too loud, as it would have been in the classroom, so the super sensitive children could easily be with the group, maybe just doing their own little thing with their educational assistants, and still being part of the community.
To top it all off, a delicious homemade rhubarb crisp from the K/1 teacher with the school garden’s rhubarb was served to all of the busy helpers—attachment needs were thus fully satisfied!
It was a wonderful day of learning with plenty of movement, creativity and happy children.