Appreciating the bounty of nature

Now is the time for families to teach an appreciation of gardens, farms, and other food gathering places with children. Many young children have no idea where food comes from, and some even think it just appears in grocery stores by magic!

Some families are lucky enough to have a home garden or berry patch. For children who are unaccustomed to watching fruits and vegetables grow, families can plan some special experiences.

There are inexpensive easy ways to build the understanding of food economics, math, and science so important for lifelong success.

Materials needed:

Small containers, egg cartons for berry picking, farmers’ markets schedules, grocery list, and a few dollars for children to buy their own produce.

What to Do:

Visit a farm or farmers’ market. Take your time to talk with children about how the fruits and vegetables grow (under ground, on a tree or bush). What parts do we eat (flower, stem, leaves, root)? How did the produce come to this place? How far away on a map? What season do farmers plant their seeds? What do the plants need to grow? What do we buy by the pound or by the dozen?

Show children how you decide what to buy for the family meals and make grocery lists together.

While shopping, decide how many peaches (or any fruit or vegetable) to buy for the family? If visiting the grocery, explain how fruits and vegetables are canned or frozen, too.

Help preschoolers count out items. How much does each item cost? This is a good time to learn the names of coins and bills. Let your children hand money to the seller at the farmers market.

Sometimes it’s possible to actually visit the farms. There may be a schedule of “open house” farm days. A visit to a dairy farm can be a great learning situation for children. What kind of machines or clothing do farmers need? How does the milk get to the store? Does the farm have chickens or other animals that give us eggs and meat?

What Else Can We Do?

Have conversations while helping children husk corn, wash, cut, and stir other fruits and vegetables. Emphasize the importance of washing produce and hands when preparing food.

Remember together where these fruits or vegetables grew. Could the family try growing some produce next spring in a garden or a few large pots?

How does the farmer get paid? What other people help us to get our food like pickers, truckers, packers, and grocery store employees?

There are many library books about how food is grown and reaches the marketplace.

Editor’s note: This column is penned by retired Marquette Area Public Schools teachers Iris Katers, Jean Hetrick, and Cheryl Anderegg. Esther Macalady is from Golden, Colorado. Tim Fox currently teaches at Superior Hills Elementary. It’s supported by Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship, the School of Education, U.P. Children’s Museum, U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, and U.P. Parent Awareness of Michigan. Their book “Learning Through the Seasons” is available at area stores and Their mission is to provide fun standards based activities that adults can do in the home to prepare children for school and a lifetime of learning and reduce the stress of child care.