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Two volunteers, and preschool and kindergarten children stand in front of the CSDC garden and new mural. The CSDC is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. (Courtesy of the CSDC.)

CSDC Brings in the Harvest

By Ken Gagnon, Media Relations

In the eyes of most parents, 6-year-olds with tools wouldn’t necessarily indicate a bunch of amateur horticulturists.

But under the supervision of John Nimmo, associate professor of family studies and executive director of the UNH Child Study and Development Center (CSDC), and a volunteer team of gardeners and staff members, these young children recently played a vital role in shaping UNH’s contribution to local needy families.

About 130 preschool and kindergarten children who attend the UNH CSDC spent Sept. 8 bringing in the harvest from their vegetable garden, which was then donated to local families in need through Portsmouth’s nonprofit social service organization, Operation Blessing.

Thanks to a grant from the Tuttle Foundation, children at the CSDC from infants to age 6 spent their summer working with teachers, volunteers, and master gardeners to create their very own vegetable garden. This may seem like a lot of work for children who, in some cases, are still learning to walk, but Nimmo and the staff at the CSDC worked hard to make the garden an environment where children could both contribute to those in need and learn safely and comfortably about gardening and about working together.

“Good education doesn’t always have to be adults crowded in a classroom,” Nimmo said. “Like this university, which centers on a lot of discovery-based learning, we wanted the children here to be able to have fun in the garden and learn, too.”

The CSDC is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The theme of the yearlong celebration is “Seventy-five years of children investigating their world. Seventy-five years of learning from children.” A laboratory school, the CSDC has both an early care and education mission and an academic mission.

Though the children were assisted by experienced gardeners in the more tedious, physically challenging portions of the gardening process, when it came to deciding what to plant and where to plant it, the children worked together in groups to brainstorm exactly how they wanted their garden to be.

“We started by actually exploring the different sorts of seeds,” said CSDC teacher Beth Hallet, “and then the children picked out of catalogues exactly what they wanted to grow.”

As a result, the children now have a considerable harvest of different vegetables, including corn and squash, to both donate to families in the area and taste themselves. The experience was not simply intended as a means to an eventual afternoon snack. Nimmo and the rest of the CSDC staff used the experience as part of a base to build a potential new curriculum for early educators called “Growing A Greener Generation.” Nimmo hopes the experience will serve as a fun time for the children and a lasting learning experience, as well.

“To me,” Nimmo said, “this garden is much richer than a playground.”

To celebrate both the creation of this curriculum and the bountiful harvest the children produced, the staff of the CSDC, along with the children and their families, hosted a Harvest Celebration Sept. 23.


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