Many activities for kids and families are on hold during social distancing, including schools and summer programs. Although groups of students won’t be gathering anytime soon, ASAP’s Growing Minds program has a new initiative to support children and their caregivers.
“We were realizing that school is out, parents are going to start having to become teachers, and how overwhelming that was. We just wanted to provide something that could be helpful to families,” says Growing Minds director and founder Emily Jackson.
In a matter of days, she and the team came up with an idea that could help children and caregivers here in Western North Carolina and anywhere in the world. It’s an online resource called Growing Minds Day-By-Day. It’s a compilation of educational resources for parents, caregivers, and educators to share with children during the COVID-19 quarantine and beyond.
Each week, the Growing Minds team selects a theme related to food, gardens, or nature, and shares related resources like children’s literature, outdoor activities, and kid-friendly recipes. There are activities for each day of the school week, Monday through Friday.
“This last week it was bees and pollinators,” Emily explains. “There’s tons of children’s literature and activities and simple things that families can do around bees and pollinators.”
The featured children’s book was The Beeman by Laurie Krebs. If a family didn’t have the book at home, they could watch a video of the author reading it aloud. Later that week, children could read and write poems about bees, make a recipe for honey muffins, engage in pollinator-themed lessons for the home garden, and make a simple bee-related craft.
Most years, Growing Minds works directly with schools and preschools on activities like local food taste tests, farmer visits and field trips, and school gardens. Although those activities are on hold, there are lots of online resources to help families start their own gardens.
Seeds are harder to find this year, but luckily, ASAP had already purchased seeds for the school gardens that were supposed to be planted this spring. They gave them out to the community at a recent outdoor farmers market.
“We had all these seeds and they’re not doing anybody any good at the ASAP office. So I put three different packs of seeds into a little paper bag and people could just grab one,” Emily says.
The farmers market’s public health procedures prohibit groups from gathering at tables, so bags were given out individually. Families didn’t know what seeds they’d be getting, but all of the seeds were selected because they’re easy and fast to grow, so there are lots of opportunities for local children to explore gardening this spring.
The new Growing Minds initiatives are helping people outside the region as well. Growing Minds is part of a network of state and national farm to school organizations, and the team was also contacted by a group in Canada who wants to share the resources in their community.
“We’ve shared our resources with those folks to help us get them out further because they’re applicable to anybody, anywhere.” she says.
Emily hopes that families will be inspired to start gardens, cook more with their kids, and find new ways to connect with each other and the natural world.
“It’s spring and it’s going to be summer,” she says. “So these are perfect times for children to be outside enjoying nature. And if we’re helping families be a little calmer or have something to do together, that pretty much all we could ask.”
Three weeks of Growing Minds Day-by-Day resources are currently online, and daily activities will be updated each week for the next several months. Find those resources and more at www.growing-minds.org
Aired: April 13, 2020