Preschoolers Learning Sustainability Through Gardening 5

Curriculum touches on social, emotional, physical and cognitive development


Chandler preschoolers are experiencing the cycle of life, appreciating the earth and respecting their environment as they dig, plant, water and care for their gardens at Desert Sun Child Development Center. From flowers and plants to fruit and vegetables, gardening is an important aspect of hands-on learning incorporated into the daily curriculum at this top-rated Arizona school.

Starting a Garden

At the beginning of the school year, teachers ask students to bring individual packets of seeds of wildflowers and herbs, and vegetables like carrots, snap peas, tomatoes and radishes.

“I think carrots are the most popular because they are so bright and colorful and come directly from the ground,” says Cindy Sheesley, lead pre-kindergarten teacher. “The kids can pull them out, clean and eat them.”

Nothing ever goes to waste.

“Tops of the carrots and other vegetables get fed to Cutie, the class Guinea pig,” Sheesley says.

Each week two children are assigned as class gardeners. Through their individual jobs of watering and caring for the garden they learn about responsibility.

“It gives them a sense of gratitude for what we grow and use,” Sheesley adds.

Extended Learning

Not only are children seeing their gardens flourish, they are expanding their social, emotional, physical and cognitive development skills, too.

“We use comparison measures to look at the two different types of Swiss chard that is grown in our garden,” Sheesley says. “We compare the seed sizes and shapes.”

Children have fun using science to predict how each seed will grow and what it will look like. They practice balancing skills when using the large watering cans. Books like “Jack and the Beanstalk” and others about planting seeds are read in class.

They also get to taste everything they grow.

“Because they take great pride and ownership in the garden, they are more brave and willing to try new things,” Sheesley says.

Gardening also gives teachers the opportunity to encourage children to work through their emotions practicing patience, courage, kindness and respect.

“We have an ant hill right next to the garden,” Sheesley says. “We taught the children that ants are part of nature.”

Grow at Home

Another big goal of gardening at Desert Sun Child Development Center is to encourage the practice at home.

“The kids are always so excited to come to school and check if their garden has grown,” Sheesley says. “They love it so much and we hope the enthusiasm carries over to their home environment.”

To learn more about Desert Sun Child Development Center, visit