Earlier this year, girls in St Hilda’s School pre-prep classes expressed a keen interest in exploring how plants grow.
Guided by their teachers, they began with little seeds. After talking together, the girls concluded that the seeds needed water, sunshine and somewhere for their roots to grow (usually soil). With this knowledge, they planted their little seeds, cared for them and watched them sprout. Next, they decided on a bigger project: planting garden beds in the Pre-Prep yard with corn and flowers. What had begun as natural curiosity from the girls, grew into a valuable unit of learning about nature, the environment and more.
“At St Hilda’s, our Pre-Prep program is inspired by the principles of Reggio Emilia,” says Director of Pre-Prep, Lisa Cleverly. “Our learning is inspired by what girls are naturally curious about.”
The Reggio Emilia philosophy views children as capable of constructing their own learning, collaborators who learn through interaction within their communities and natural communicators who should be encouraged to express themselves.
“Our Pre-Prep Teachers are there to guide and nurture girls’ curiosity, as well as facilitate the exploration of their interests,” says Lisa.
After a long wait (about 15 weeks) the girls and their teachers harvested the corn they had grown and explored the taste, texture and smell of it. The girls learnt about the different parts of a corn plant as they peeled the ‘ear’ of corn and removed the remaining plants from the garden bed, noticing the roots, stalk, tassel, silks and pollen.
Together with their teachers, they prepared the garden bed for its next inhabitants: carrot, cauliflower and lettuce seeds.
In learning about ways to care for plants, the girls naturally veered into adjacent areas of learning, including the importance of bees and the idea of sustainability, through helping to care for a worm farm, and sorting compost and waste.
The five-day week or five-day fortnight Pre-Prep program at St Hilda’s School offers children a variety of developmental, social and cultural experiences which support their readiness for Prep and literacy and numeracy learning in later years.