Thank you so much for being so inclusive and helping the kids foster mutual respect, I know this is challenging to facilitate and you do a great job.Dirt Girl Parent, Spring 2022
Although today marks the “official” start to the summer season, the end of the academic school year typically signals summer vacation for most educators. My summer started after the last session of the spring season of Dirt Girls was held on June 10th. It was not quite as hot that day as it is today (104 degrees in Napa!), but it was hot enough that we really looked forward to popsicles!
Our spring season started April 18th and was filled with smiles. Why focus on smiles? According to a recent research report from the Wallace Foundation, 84% of parents they surveyed rank the statement, “Your child seems happy/likes attending,” as their #1 priority for Out of School (OST) programming.
Seven participants wore spring smiles during our twice weekly sessions at New Tech High School. Although this was a new site for me to teach in, and an unfamiliar garden for most of the participants, we gradually developed a connection to the space and engaged in place-based learning. For example, kids had favorite “sit spots” where we would gather as a group or they could observe on their own or complete garden chores. A few loved exploring in the bamboo ‘forest,’ while others preferred watering plants or watching the rosemary hedges for lizards.
One of our favorite activities was a nature word art challenge. Partners spell an empowering word–such as “hope” or “love”– using pieces found in nature. This activity nurtures creativity, leadership, and communication as partners/teams share roles and space. It also provides a focused, safe way to play outside. The best part is how participants articulated the meaning they find in the words. For example, for the word “hope,” R. thought it meant, “a belief something will happen.”
Planting is always a favorite task. We started the season with sunflower seeds, followed by gladiolus bulbs and edible crops. The garden club advisors at New Tech High were generous with sharing their planting space. This allowed Dirt Girls to sow two ‘three-sisters’ beds (an interplanting of corn, beans, and squash). We also planted a bed of sunflowers for seed saving, and a third containing a mix of edible herbs, vegetables and flowers for tasting (such as cilantro, pansies, radishes, potatoes, etc.). We even tried germinating redwood seeds with varying degrees of success (germination kits provided by One Tree Planted).
After a two-year pandemic pause, it was thrilling to bring Dirt Girls back to life. As the founder and Lead Dirt Girl, I believe this program shows promise for what Out of School Time Programs should offer: “passion, purpose, & voice.” The smiles show that the participants agreed.
Until the fall…keep digging.
Out-of-School Time Programs: Paving the Way for Children to Find Passion, Purpose, & Voice