Lake Dillon preschoolers pick at their food, grow their own vegetables |

Lake Dillon preschoolers pick at their food, grow their own vegetables

Joe Moylan

This summer children enrolled in Lake Dillon Preschool began an interactive learning process geared toward teaching them where their food comes from and how it is grown.

Thanks to a grant awarded through the Copper Environmental Foundation, preschool director Kathy McNutt was able to use funds to transform the gravel pit in the front of the school into an interactive garden, complete with grow boxes built by a parent volunteer and dirt donated by local nursery owner Neils Lunceford.

More than 30 kids, ages 2 through 5, are participating in the learning experience, which started with children raising plants from seeds.

“A lot of kids think their milk and vegetables come from the store,” McNutt said. “Most children don’t even realize milk first comes from a cow or plants are grown in the soil. With so much emphasis being placed on early childhood education we thought this would be a good way to teach kids about where their food actually comes from.”

In addition to raising everything from sunflowers to radishes and lettuce from seeds, the grant also included enough funds to allow McNutt and her teaching staff to treat their students to a walking field trip to the Dillon Farmer’s Market. Although teachers often take their students to the farmers market, the kids rarely ever received the opportunity to interact with the community around them, McNutt said, such as purchasing freshly sprouted plants to transfer to their school garden.

“The man who sold herbs to kids was really nice, and he taught them how they could rub the leaves to be able to smell the plant on their fingers,” she said. “The 3-year-olds spent the rest of the day rubbing and smelling everything.”

Although the emphasis of the program is on the plant life cycle, McNutt said it’s just as important to get children outside and playing in the dirt. And they’ll get plenty of opportunity to get dirty in the fall when the plants die and the lesson shifts to harvesting seeds for next year and composting.

Until then, McNutt is looking forward to harvest time and giving kids the opportunity to bring food they raised themselves home to their families.

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