A light rain was falling on the Friday that we were visited by a group from St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf. The already small class size was down to two teachers and two students that day; both students named Hunter.
For a couple hours on Friday, the learning garden was their candy store. With an atypical ratio of two students to five adults, the Hunters had a chance to try every vegetable, smell all the herbs, and help with lunch preparations. As we toured the winding paths, the Hunters discovered small wonders. A cucumber beetle, a blossom, a single brown mushroom poking through brown mulch. We pulled a radish from the ground and asked them what it was. Hunter eagerly guessed “carrot”. I touched the cauliflower, and Hunter signed, “popcorn”? We asked them to rub basil leaves and smell their hands. They told us basil was their favorite smell. The boys asked about the poppy plants, and I gave each of them a seed head and shook a few seeds onto their palms. Instinctively, they turned the seed heads over and began broadcasting poppy seeds into the flower bed. One Hunter quickly signed that the poppies were his favorite.
As we walked, Rachel and the Hunters harvested cucumber, radish, tomatoes (“favorite”), eggplant, and peppers. We led the Hunters to the chicken pen. Rachel briefed them on chicken etiquette – how it was important to stay calm, so as not to frighten the chickens. Nina, our Learning Garden intern, showed them a feeding technique – break the cucumbers in half to give the chickens easier access to the fruit. Soon the Hunters learned that if one of their teachers fed cucumbers to the chickens, they could approach the chickens from behind and scoop them up. The Hunters told us this was now their favorite.
Rachel asked the Hunters for help with mulch, and the boys bustled over to the pile. They shoveled mulch into their buckets, and sprinkled it over the garden paths. Next it was time to cook. Using child-safe knives, the boys diligently sliced cucumber for the salad.
After a morning of mulching, feeding chickens, harvesting veggies, absorbing tons of garden knowledge, cooking, and smiles all around, the group feasted on fresh learning garden produce.