Indiana State University Newsroom

Early Childhood Education Center uses garden as teaching tool

August 1, 2011

As soon as the children heard the word "garden", their eyes lit up and they raced to the door leading out to their playground. As they marching toward the garden, the excitement rose as the students began to show off their creation.

While the youngsters brag about the garden growing tall outside of Indiana State University's Early Childhood Education Center, teachers use it to educate the students about science, nature, and nutrition in an interactive way.

University Apartments where the center is located, offers a community garden for its tenants. Two years ago, the center's staff decided to branch off from that garden to start one on the playground. They hoped the children would help in growing, maintaining and picking the produce.

Two years later, the children help grow cucumbers, basil, zucchini, green beans, eggplant, squash, thyme, tomatoes, blackberries, cantaloupe and several other items.

Andrea Henderson, a teacher at the center, said the garden provides a variety of different learning experiences.

"They're working in the garden, composting, and drawing pictures of what they are doing," Henderson said.

The children help pick the produce and prepare it to be cooked for part of their lunch.

Gail Gottschling, center director, said the garden project helps children learn more about the foods they are eating.

"We teach them that the healthiest way is to eat things fresh from the garden," Gottschling said. "We encourage them to try new foods and prepare the produce in multiple ways. We let them try it raw then cooked in with a meal. We also send recipes home to the families."
However, recipes are not the only things sent home.

"We share produce with the families and have also donated to the CODA (Council on Domestic Abuse) shelter in the past," Henderson said.

Teachers work in lessons throughout the process of gardening. Students have learned the difference between fruits and vegetables, what kinds of produce grows in the United States, where the food comes from and what the produce needs to grow.

"I like to grow green beans," said 3-year-old Katie Henthorn.

Katie witnessed the full growing cycle of the green beans and snapped the beans to eat for lunch.

"I want to snap beans at home," Katie said.

The garden is a collaboration of the Early Childhood Education Center, ISU Grounds Maintenance, Residential Life, and the Center for Community Engagement.

To learn more about the center or to apply, visit

Photos: - Andrea Henderson, a teacher at Indiana State University's Early Childhood Education Center, snaps green beans from the center's garden with 3-year-old Katie Henthorn. - David Pethick, a student at Indiana State University's Early Childhood Education Center, shows off a tomato grown in the center's garden.

Contact: Gail Gottschling, Early Childhood Education Center, director, at 812-237-2547

Writer: Britany Dean, Indiana State University, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773