What started out as a small request from Russ Drew’s wife to beautify the area outside of the Teddy Bear Tymes center, turned into a garden project and a wonderful learning opportunity for the children at the childcare center located in San Bernardino, CA. The center, which provides quality care for children from six weeks to six years old and includes a kindergarten class, is now greatly utilizing the area that Linda, Drew’s wife, asked him to pretty up. Drew, part time teacher, cook, facility manager and now gardener, cleaned up the area and began small, by planting flowers and some vegetables.
They noticed that the area was really effective in helping the special-needs children, by calming them down and helping them return to class. They even started calling it their “calming garden.”
In an effort to continue growing, there were requests for a garden that the children could plant and harvest and learn more about fruits and vegetables. With finances being spent elsewhere, Drew started looking for funding opportunities to keep up the garden. He came across the Western Growers Foundation grant that opened up in 2013. They were selected to receive a grant. With the grant, the center was able to purchase an automatic watering system, fertilizer, seeds and the required equipment to maintain the garden.
Soon, Drew and the children, began planting a variety of fruits and vegetables, which now includes corn, squash, berries, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes, citrus, beans, peas and grapes. They helped plant, water and harvest the garden. After harvest, they would have tasting parties in the classrooms so the children got to enjoy what they grew.
In addition to learning to like fruits and vegetables, the garden provided learning opportunities for the classroom, including lessons in language arts, art, science, math, motor skills and nutrition. They even found some caterpillars on their plants that grew into beautiful Giant Swallowtails. The children were amazed at their beauty and size and had a “fly away day” party to release them.
“Some of our parents were so impressed by the way our gardens grew that they decided to grow their own and asked for our help in doing so. The gardens gave many children the opportunity to spend some time with their busy parents looking at and talking about what they learned in the garden. This was probably the most important benefit to many of our kids,” said Drew.
All in all, the “calming garden,” has become quite a success story for the children at Teddy Bear Tymes. The garden became many of the children’s first exposure to fruits and vegetables.