Arcadia Interns Visit the Washington Youth Garden

Washing fresh picked produce and touching Malabar Spinach

The Arcadia Team went to the Washington Youth Garden last week to observe their field trip program and ogle at their lovely sensory garden. The Washington Youth Garden has been around since 1971 and is located within the equally lovely grounds of the National Arboretum. Our group was really blown away with the diversity that this garden packs into such a modestly sized space. From the "Pop-tart Garden" to the Corn Maze, the garden is so well planned out and spaced to accommodate the inquisitive minds of the children that visit, as well as taking into account their need to run and work off energy. 

The Pop-tart garden was composed of strawberries, corn, can sugar and wheat and students were asked to consider what percentage of each crop is in a Pop-tart. Anyone want to guess the percentage of strawberries that make it into a Pop-tart?

Eucalyptus and Okra

Bees and a Swallow Tail Butterfly Caterpillar 
I think what we all appreciated most was the chance to watch a field trip up close and personal and really experience the process of communicative learning. The educational experience during the field trip is interactive and encourages exploration. When a question is asked by the students the answers are open-ended and when a question is asked by the educators the question is open to interpretation from the students.  The goal of this style of learning is to empower the students themselves to be responsible for their own growing process and to contribute to the group experience, rather than passively absorbing information from an educator. The team at WTG was amazing to watch as they struck the balance between educator and an active explorer with the students.

Lammot and Amanda check out the creative bottle planters
We really loved these bottle planters - what a great project this could be to do with Farm Camp kids in the summer, right?

Chinese Noodle Beans and Baby Beets

Tomatoes and Raspberries

Morgan testing out the natural play area
Until coming to Arcadia the idea of a natural play area was not something I was very familiar with. The concept is to provide a space where students can take risks and use their imagination to create scenes and a context of their own. The Washington Youth Garden has a great play station with lots of risky logs to jump, instruments made of wood, a stage for performances and a digging box.

One of my favorite parts of the visit was learning about okra seeds. The ladies at WYG not only know how to delight and educate children but they also had a wealth of information to teach our team. We learned that plant seeds, like this okra, have parts of the plants that are called ovaries that produce the seed and that the fertilized okra seed is called an embryo - just like in human anatomy!

Nadia - one of the WYG Educators

Bee dance!

Explaining the bee colony 

We all agreed that they have great signs to explain and reinforce their program - which is something that we can add and enhance in our own garden.

Playing with sensitive plant

Finding worms in the compost
Saving cotton seeds
After showing the kids the cotton seeds they made the experience interactive by asking the kids to separate the seeds and save them for the next planting season. This was a great example of bringing things full cycle and reinforcing the cyclical and seasonal nature of farming.

In all, the Arcadia Team left WYG feeling inspired, excited and more prepared to teach our own groups of bubbling school children.  The WYG is open every day that the National Arboretum is open so stop by to see what's going on or sign up to volunteer!

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