Cooking and gardening at Yarrunga Early Learning Centre

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Early childhood educators at Yarrunga Early Learning Centre are taking a fresh approach to gardening and cooking with young children.

The centre, in East Albury NSW, is running weekly kitchen garden activities to help children experience the joys of growing and preparing fresh, seasonal, delicious food.

Yarrunga’s Sustainability Officer, Lynette Lascelles, said they run weekly cooking and gardening sessions, and related learning activities, with the children.

Lynette said the centre has raised garden beds and a vertical garden – made of recycled wooden pallets – which provides the children with easy access to the spaces to plant into, and pick their fruit, vegetables and herbs.  ­­

The centre is tailoring activities to suit the different ages of the children in attendance, with babies as young as nine months heading out into the vegetable garden.

“Harvesting produce and picking herbs are highlights for the children,” Lynette said.

“We encourage children to use their senses in the garden and to taste the produce.

“One child liked the smell of a tomato so much that he wanted to pick it and eat it straight from the garden.”

When the centre first set up the kitchen garden, they struggled to get a productive harvest that could be used in cooking activities with the children.

According to Lynette, the turning point in their kitchen garden journey was accessing resources, support and training from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.

The centre joined the Foundation’s Kitchen Garden Classroom membership, attended face-to-face training workshops, and purchased the published resource Seasonal Food & Gardening for the Early Years: Book 1.

Lynette said the Seasonal Food & Gardening for the Early Years book and training workshop provided some great tips on how to establish a productive kitchen garden space that could better support the children’s learning experiences.

She said the book, and the Foundation’s online resource library, also inspired many kitchen garden activities with the children at the centre.

 “We’ve done almost every activity in the first early years book, so we can’t wait to use book 2 in the series!” Lynette said.

Lynette said they had cooked dishes such as potato, leek and chive soup; tomato and garlic sauce to go on homemade pizzas; Indian flatbread; and basil pesto.

“We’ve made fresh pasta dough, which we turned into ravioli. For NAIDOC Week, we’re going to make wattleseed damper,” she said.

“We’re also going to make moon pasties from the book and talk about the cycles of the moon.”

“The children have also made ladybird houses, salad spinner art, and explored spices.”

As well as providing great tips for their garden and for activities to run with the children, the book also showed how to make links to learning outcomes and quality frameworks.

“It’s a great hands-on book that helps us plan, and it’s got a great format. It’s easy to read and makes links to the National Quality Framework and the outcomes of the Early Years Learning Framework,” Lynette said.

“We have also linked the Foundation’s Pleasurable Food Education Philosophy to the centre’s Sustainable Action Plan.”

  • Book 1 and 2 in the Foundation’s resource series - Seasonal Cooking & Gardening for the Early Years – are available now in our online shop.
  • To find out how your early years centre, or school can dig into pleasurable food education head to our Kitchen Garden Classroom membership page.
  • If you are in Victoria, check out the Victorian Pleasurable Food Education Package, which is supported by the Victorian Department of Education and includes a bundle of discounted professional development, educational resources, membership and support.
  • Any questions? Call our friendly Support Team on 13000 SAKGF (13000 72543).

< Back to Latest News