El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas
El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas
We, Juliana Goldstein and Irene McNaughton spent the summer in the small town of Parras, a beautiful desert oasis located in Northern Mexico in the state of Coahuila. We went there as a group of fourteen students from Humboldt State University, a small college in Northern California, to study Appropriate Technology (AT) and the Spanish language.
We, Irene and Juliana both study Liberal Studies Elementary Education at Humboldt State University and have desires to educate the youth about the environment and the importance of taking care of the world we live in. Last year two students from the 2005 Parras group started an organic garden at an asilo, located at a nunnery, that acts as a foster home. The mission of the asilo is to take in young girls and provide them with a positive and healthy environment to learn and grow.
When we first visited the garden we met the girls and the nuns and saw the garden that was started last year. Although the students working on this project last summer worked hard on the garden, we found the garden to be covered in weeds and other hard to identify plants. The soil was also very dry and the garden seemed to have been neglected. Our goals for this project were to replant the garden and teach the girls about various aspects of gardening so that hopefully this situation will not happen again. We discussed topics such as: what plants are, what elements plants need in order to grow, the lifecycles of various plants in the garden, and how to maintain a happy and healthy garden.
In order to get to know the girls, replant the garden, and teach the girls about organic gardening, we created lesson plans with an emphasize in gardening that focus on the lifecycle of a plant. We also made a map of the garden outlining where different plants are located. We gave this to Hermana Carmen along with a breif description of the needs of the plants. Futhermore we helped the girls create a recipe book so that they could see how these fruits, vegetables, and herbs are connected with the daily food that they eat and they can make different dishes with the food they grow in the garden.
Before we began designing our lesson plans and choosing what we were going to plant in the garden, we first had to educate ourselves. We found out what plants are able to grow in a desert climate and what could be planted within the first few weeks we arrived at the garden, what the girls wanted to have in the garden and where to get seeds and possibly organic dirt and/or compost. Luckily we had Kiva Mahoney, our lovely and knowledgeable agriculturist and horticulturist friend, here with us in the program who gave us an insight about what can be grown in the desert and when it can be planted. We used part of a table in her paper titled "Agriculture in Parras de la Fuente Mexico" to get an idea of what we could grow in the garden. We found that we could grow the fruits and vegtables as fallows:
|Bean, pole||May 15-Jul 1|
|Cantaloupe||May 15-Jun 15|
|Corn, sweet||May 25-Jul 1|
|Cucumber||May 15-Jun 15|
|Onion, dry seed||Oct 15-Jan 1 Feb 15-Apr 15|
|Potato, sweet||May 15-20|
|Squash, summer||May 1-Jul 1|
|Squash, winter||May 15-Jul 1|
|Tomato, seed||Mar 1-Apr 1|
|Tomato, plants||May 10-Jun 1|
|Watermelon||May 1-Jun 1|
|Lettuce,head||Jul 1-Aug 1|
|Corn, Mex||June May 25-Jun 15|
|Carrot||May 1-Jul 15|
|Bean, Lima||May 15-Jul 1|
When we asked the girls what they wanted to grow in the garden they mentioned almost all of these plants.
The Girls We Worked With In The Garden
The 10 girls that live at the asilo who we worked with ranged between six and twelve years old. During the day, the girls go to school from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm and in the afternoon they attend church located at the asilo. The main caretaker looking after them and doing activities with them in the afternoon, is Hermana Carmen. We went to the asilo two to three times a week for eight weeks and worked with them in the afternoon. Our schedule was Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. On some Thursday afternoons we worked on our lesson plans for the next week and looked for materials needed.
The group of girls we worked with were between kindergarten and sixth grade. The activities we did with them were catered to all their ages and their differences in the stages of development. Such differences include differences in motor skills, language development, cognitive development, social and cultural development and their various attention spans.
According to the developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, children ages seven to eleven, are in the concrete operational stage. This stage is characterized by the appropriate use of logic. In this stage the girls have the “ability to name and identify sets of objects according to appearance, size or other characteristic, including the idea that one set of objects can include another. A child is no longer subject to the illogical limitations of animism (the belief that all objects are animals and therefore have feelings)”. Because all the girls at the asilo are in this stage we are able to teach them about gardening and how to characterize the different information we will be teaching them about plants and their uses and importance.
According to Erik Erickson, the social development psychologist, children in middle childhood between six and ten years old are in a stage which he calls Industry vs. Inferiority.  In this stage children are most concerned with “Am I successful at what I do or am I worthless?” How a child does in school is very important in their development and thus the child's central task is education. At this stage they are acquiring skills and developing competency in work and enjoy achievement. Their developmental tasks are friendship, skill learning, self-evaluation, and team play. Because most of the girls at the asilo are in this stage, planting a garden together is a great way to build their social development. By creating a garden, and seeing how their hard work pays off in terms of yummy food to eat and something beautiful to look at. The girls had an opportunity to feel successful. They are also acquired gardening skills and knowledge.
The ten wonderful girls we worked with are:
IN EL JARDIN MAGICO DE LAS NINAS DAY BY DAY
Week 1: Set up a schedule, Meet the Girls, and See the Garden
Monday, May 29: We went with Francisco de la Cabada to the asilo to meet with Hermana Carmen to set up a schedule of when we would be coming to work in the garden. We were unable to meet the girls because they were at school at the time we arrived, and we also did not get a chance to see the garden that was started the year before.
Wednesday, May 31: This was the first day we met the 10 wonderful young girls that we will be working with as well as the garden that was planted last year. The girls were really excited to meet us as well as we were excited to meet them. When we arrived all the girls and Nuns were in church doing a ceremony for the Virgin that is preformed at the end of each month. Irene and I were able to see the beautiful ceremony and the girls dressed in their elegant white dresses, it was quite beautiful. After the ceremony the girls came running over to us to greet us and gave us hugs and kisses. We then all went outside and we had the girls go a change out of their dresses so that we could play a couple games and sang a song to get to know each other a little better. The songs and games are explained in our Lesson Plan. We introduced ourselves, how long we are going to be here and talked to them a little bit about gardening. We felt it was very important to explain to them that we would be leaving in about 8 weeks so that would not be suprised when we had to go. We also took pictures of the girls and the garden. We then took time to check out the garden planted the year before and found it to be full of weeds and hard to identify plants. We realized that the garden needed a lot of work and we would need do more research and consult a specialist like our friend Kiva Mahoney about what is in the garden and what should stay and what should go. El Jardin Magico de las ninas Lesson Plan: Introduction
Week 2: Weeding, Relationship Building, Kiva comes, and Teaching about What is a Garden and Why is it Important.
Monday June 5: We did more relationship building, sang more songs, played more games, took pictures and learned more of the girls names. We also talked to the girls about the garden from last year and found that there are only 2 girls at the asilo now that were there last year. We talked a little about what we will be doing in the garden and why it is important to have a garden. We also asked the girls what kinds of plants they wanted to plant in the Garden. We did some weeding, although planed to do much more, but due to lack of time and tools we were only able to do a little bit. Organizing ten girls is not easy to weed in a small space. However, we did manage to weed out a lot of the grasses and other weeds. Lesson plan, Monday June 5th
Wednesday, June 7: We brought our great and knowledgeable agriculture friend Kiva with us to the asilo to give us some tips about the garden and which plants should stay and which plants should go, about turning the soil and about the location of the garden. Keva explained to us that all the plants in the garden besides two flowering plants, the baby avocado and lemon trees needed to be pulled up. She also explained that we would have to wet and double dig the soil. While Irene worked with Kiva and learned more about the Garden, Juliana gave a lesson on why plants and having a garden is important, what they need in order to grow and how plants are living things similar to people like you and me. Lesson Plan Wednesday, June 7th
Week 3: Weeding, Turning and Double digging the Soil
Monday, June 12: We finished weeding the garden and pulled out most of the plants. We then brought out the shovels and began to turn the soil. The girls had a hard time sharing the tools and did a lot more packing the dirt in then breaking it and digging it up. At the end, Irene took the girls and played a couple games while Juliana continued to work in the garden without the girls. We had the whole garden weeded and most of the dirt turned by the end of the session.
Wednesday, June 14: We brought our friends Ana and Tybie and Irene’s twin sister Laura to the Garden as well as a couple extra tools, to help turn and double dig the soil. They were a great help because we were able to efficiently and quickly get the soil turned. Having helpers there gave the girls the opportunity to see how to dig and how to use a shovel properly, without falling or not going very deep. While our extra help was working on the Garden, Irene and Juliana worked with the girls in reviewing what they had done in the Garden thus far and the importance of getting the soil ready for new plants to grow.
Week 4: Planting
Monday, June 19th: We brought some seeds as well as some plants that we bought in Saltillo to begin planting in the Garden. Hermana Carmen helped to plant some of the plants and herbs along with the rest of the girls.
Wednesday, June 21: The girls drew the different fruits and vegtables that are growing in the garden, using colored paper and markers. This demonstrated and reinforced what is growing in the garden. They cut out their drawings and we punched holes in them and strung them on a string to hang behind the garden. It is now used to keep birds away from the plants in the garden. Lesson Plan: Wednesday, June 21st
Thursday, June 22: We introduced the different parts of a plant using a worksheet. The girls colored in the different parts of the plant and labeled them. This helped them understand and give them technical names for the different parts of the plants. Worksheet of Plant Parts
Week 5: Learning about the life cycle of a plant and cookbook recipies
Monday, June 26th: We talked about the different foods the girls like to eat in the garden and the different ways they like to eat it. This helped the girls relate themselves to the garden by bringing them back to the different foods they eat that are planted in the garden. The girls drew the different foods they like to eat with Irene to put in a cook book for Hermana Carmen. While they were working with Irene one girls was sent out at a to work with Juliana in the garden. Juliana explained the life cycle of a melon plant using a small melon plant that had just recently sprouted.
Wednesday, June 28th: We ate melon with the girls and then explained to them the life cycle of a melon plant. We then used the seeds of the melon for the drawing of the life cycle that we did together of melon plant. Each girl drew each step of a life cycle of a plant and in the middle they explained what a plant needs to live and grow.
Week 6: Pinwheels and Goodbye Activites:
Tuesday, July 4th: Juliana and Irene were invited and went to a graduation ceremony for a few of the girls in the asilo.
Wednesday, July 5th: Our professors Lonny and Tressie and our friends Kiva, Aaron, Ben, and Mark came to the enjoy the experience of el jardin magico. We used cut out shapes of different vegatables and painted on them to make stamps. All our friends and girls worked together to make beautiful collages that are now posted in our classroom at the UTC. The girls enjoyed meeting our friends and had a chance to play do handstands and play horsey. At the end we sat in a circle and the girls expressed their knowledge of a life cycle of a plant, what a plant needs for survival, and what plants give to the world.
Friday, July 7th: We gave each girl a card with pictures of us and the garden and we gave Hermana Carmen the cookbook we put together. Each card said "Gracias por trabajar en el jardin. Les voy extrañar mucho. Un abrazo fruete. Juliana y Irene" School ended today for summer vacation for all the girls at the asilo. Seven of ten of the girls went to stay with their families for the summer and will not be returning to the asilo until school begans again at the end of August. Only three sisters remained, Marisol, Marta, and Socorro for the last 2 weeks we attended the garden
Week 7: In Zacatecas
We were unable to go to the garden this week because our group went to Zacatecas on vacation. We explained to the girls and Hermana Carmen that we were leaving and to "cuidar el jadín mientras estamos afuera."
Week 8: Replanting the Garden
Monday, July 17th: We brought our friends Edgar, Daniel, and Mark to help replant the garden and give them a chance to see the hard work we put into the garden this summer. There are only three girls left and they enjoyed the attention of our new visitors. We planted tomatoe plants we had growing in a separate container in one part of the garden and we replanted little lettuce plants that had grow to close together.
Tuesday, July 18th: We brought our friends Kiva and Angela to the garden. We replanted more lettuce, tomatoes, and we thined out the melon and the watermelon plants so they would survive with advice from our agriculture friend Kiva.
Week 9: The Final Goodbye
Tuesday, July 26th: Today was our final day in El Jardin Magico de Las Ninas. We all will be leaving this beautiful oasis by the end of the week and today we had to say our last and final good by to our lovly garden, to Marisol, Socorro, and Marta. To our suprise, Hermana Carmen was not there and we were un able to say good bye and thank here once again for allowing us to be part of the lives of the wonderful girls. When we arrived the girls came running up to us as usual and gave us hugs and kisses and welcomed us wormly to thier asilo. We all went out to the Garden and watered it and talked a little bit about how much the plants had grown. We then played some soccer all together until the girls announced "esta chispeando" (It's drizzeling). We then went under the overhang of the courtyard and finished our game. Finally it was time to say good by to our good frinds and to the Jardin Magico. We explained the the girls that this was our last time in the garden and that like we had metioned the first day we came, we were leaving and going back to the United States. They gave us big hugs and kissed us good bye and it was there in the courtyard next to our newly planted garden that we said our final good bye. We left through the huge wooden gates of the asilo and walk back to our houses in the pouring rain disscusing what a wonderful experience we had in the garden. We will miss the ten incredable girls we made frinds with this summer. We wish the best for our newly planted garden and for the girls and Hermana Carmen.
We both had an amazing experience working with the girls. Before we started we had many motivations for doing this such as: the garden that was started last year needed to be replanted and better maintained, the girls were also in need of a lot of attention and love, and they appreciate new people coming to their asilo and teaching them new things. We feel that we had chance to complete these goals and even a few more. We believe it is important to teach our future generation about the interconnectedness of the living systems on earth and planting a garden is a great way to show this.
The girls were able to see the process it takes to grow a plant and hopefully have learned to appreciate this process and also have a better understanding of it. As future teachers we wish to make this world a better place for our youth and in doing this we need to help them learn about the importance of respecting the planet we live on. Through this project we have created strong relationships with the girls and taught and brought them new knowledge about being good global citizens. As future teachers we have also learned a lot about teaching the youth about envirnmental education and gardening.
- Our budget of the garden consisted of the following:
|10||Seed Packets||Local Vender||15||150|
|2||RT Busride to Saltillo to buy plants and seeds||Caballero Tours||160||320|
|2||Taxis in Saltillo||Taxi Cab||60||120|
|3||Taxis to Asilo||Taxi Cab||20||60|
|Various||Misc paper, markers, tape, straws||Papeleria||100||400|
- El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas/Introduction lesson plan
- El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas/In the garden lesson plan
- El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas/Garden importance lesson plan
- El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas/Fruits and veggies lesson plan
- El Jardín Mágico de las Niñas/Pinwheels lesson plan