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Learning By Growing

The 80 little sprouts attending the University of Missouri's Child Development Lab are gaining a working knowledge of growing healthful foods, thanks to a new gardening plot — the MU Children’s Learning Garden — and a partnership with some helpful students and USDA-Agricultural Research Services.

Many of the preschoolers already understand the basics of gardening. With a producing garden of their own, they’ll take that knowledge to a new level and share healthful eating tips with their families. The CDL and garden are in the College of Human Environmental Sciences Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

MU students volunteers from the USDA help the youngsters plant and maintain the area, which features several vegetable beds, a sensory garden of herbs and a pollinator garden to attract bees. A spot along the back fence is ready for the future planting of berry bushes, and there’s space as well to add fruit trees.

The Children’s Learning Garden is ADA accessible and is open to children of all abilities, with planters that are wheelchair accessible, a raised planting table and free-standing pots.

CDL Director Jessie Bradley says connecting children with nature is an exciting national trend that benefits today’s busy parents, who may not have the space or time for gardening with their children.

Bringing the outside in is another way of learning for kids. Children start to understand that you buy food at the grocery store but a garden is where it comes from. Children who experience gardening have a more true picture of how things grow,” she says.