Gardens grow much more than fruits and vegetables at Rivier University's Landry Early Childhood Center in Nashua, New Hampshire. Since 2013, over 200 youth participants have had the opportunity to grow edible gardens on their playground. By installing raised beds, youngsters have been able to grow sunflowers, vegetables, and fruit. Lessons in seed starting, health and nutrition, and core academic subjects have helped to create lasting connections for teachers and youth, making the garden a center of activity and key to the instruction. In support of their efforts, the Landry Early Childhood Center was awarded the National Gardening Association's 2013 Rubenstein Foundation Garden Grant, which provided funding and materials to support the young child at laboratory schools in New England and New York.
Since the founding of the center in 1987, the Landry Early Childhood Center has provided instruction to the next generation of teachers and nurses. The garden is now a core area of study for teachers in training and nurses to work directly with mentors and youth to engage in discussions and lessons. The edible garden is an extension of an existing play space called "The Enchanted Forest," an outdoor play environment reflective of New Hampshire's natural landscape. Under a canopy of maple trees, children learn through play, observing the growth of native perennials like mountain laurel, ferns, fiddleheads, and much more.
The center hopes to increase their capacity to grow fruits and vegetables for children to enjoy. This year-round program is excited to expand their efforts by planting seeds saved in 2013, some of which they will start indoors. The official outdoor growing season begins with their annual May Day festival where families and children celebrate the coming of spring by decorating maypoles, planting flowers, and coming together to enjoy one another's company.