Prep Senior Outdoor Discovery Garden Grows!
By Kim McNaughton, Prep Senior Teacher, ISKL
As parents and educators, we understand how important a connection to the natural world is and how crucial it is for young children. To see and touch butterflies, birds, worms and lizards, not to mention flowering and edible plants, enhances every child’s understanding and wonder of the world around them.
Our idea for the Outdoor Discovery Garden is to increase the green space at the new ISKL Ampang campus and make it a place of learning and discovery for the children. Prep Senior teacher, Sara Allum agrees, “My vision is the children will connect to nature and have sensory opportunities. I also want to inspire outdoor inquiry and learning.”
To make it meaningful and so the children would be invested, it was important for them to be part of the process of creating the garden, and they have helped in each stage. Prep Senior teacher Karien Hoogenboezen explains, “I want for the children to realize they can be part of it - what happens in nature because they helped plant the garden. I also want it to be a place the children want to be - to enjoy and be calm.”
We are very fortunate to have plant nurseries right on our doorstep at ISKL and the children thoroughly enjoyed our excursions “next door”, enthusiastically pointing out plants they would like to have in the garden. We first discussed the types of plants that we would like to have in the garden, and the children were particularly keen to purchase plants that would attract bees and other insects, as well as ones that would grow to provide shady places to sit and play.
Probably their favorite part of our project was the physical side of gardening. With the assistance of our wonderful ISKL Facilities and Grounds staff, the children took on all the jobs involved in bringing our garden to life, from the labour of moving plants and deciding where to locate plants to digging holes and covering the plants’ roots with soil.
We wanted the children to feel the experience. They loved taking their shoes off, feeling the grass beneath their feet, and getting the mud and soil between their fingers. In this very urban environment where most of us live, these experiences are not an everyday part of children’s lives, so it is very important for us to give them a space where they are able to really feel nature. Ms Karein continues, “The outdoor Discovery Garden will be an area to explore, examine and observe changes in nature.”
Once complete, in addition to providing the connection to nature and opportunity for discovery, it will also be a quiet place for children to read and write. It will be a calm space, one that provides sensory opportunities and helps the children to develop their fine and gross motor skills.
Our Discovery Garden was funded through an Inspiration Fund grant, and is truly a living growing work in progress. Prep Senior will continue to add plants and rocks, and grow in knowledge and understanding of nature as our garden grows.
About Kim McNaughton
Kim McNaughton is a Prep Senior teacher at The International School of Kuala Lumpur where she has loved being an Early Childhood educator for the past eight years. She is a passionate advocate of sustainability and of all people, especially children spending time in nature.