Oct 9th, 2014

2014: The Year of the Clementine Crate

by Kristin Mullen, Children’s Garden Educator, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Epiphany Preschool teachers stitching together nesting bags. Teamwork!

Epiphany Preschool teachers putting final touches on their nesting bags. Teamwork!

It’s not uncommon for the Children’s Garden to request donations for items that might otherwise get tossed in the trash – toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, and hot chocolate containers are some of our staples. Our young guests transform these under-appreciated items into treasures such as fanciful works of art, trusty binoculars for exploring the Garden, and woodland drums used to tame the wild beasts.

Last winter we put out a new request: clementine crates! The original idea was utilitarian – we needed them for our spring Young Buds programs as a convenient way to send preschool projects safely back to school. But what we got was so much more! Thanks to our staff and volunteers, we had stacks and stacks of crates stashed in all the nooks and crannies of the Children’s Garden – way more than we needed for Young Buds. So, we got creative!

child with crate garden

Peter Rabbit inspired clementine crate gardens for the summer campers!

After harvesting and tasting vegetables in the Farm Garden, the 4- and 5-year-olds in our Garden Critters Green Adventures Summer Camp were inspired to plant their very own “Peter Rabbit’s Garden.” They painted the clementine crates, filled them with soil, carefully planted carrot, lettuce, and radish seeds, and watered them every day during camp. By the end of the week, they were so excited to show their families the small sprouts in their gardens.

And recently, I worked with the teachers at Epiphany Preschool in Vienna, Virginia, to demonstrate how they could maximize their schoolyard for experiential learning. As you might guess, I couldn’t help but turn to the clementine crates for inspiration. We used the orange mesh that covers the top of the crates to create nesting bags. The preschoolers will practice fine motor skills while sewing the bags, invite birds to the schoolyard by providing nesting materials in the spring, and learn about reusing and recycling at the same time.

So, what other amazing things can we do with a clementine crate? Send us your ideas and stay tuned to see what 2015 brings!

As the Exhibitions Manager at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Kristin Thoroman leads the development of seasonal exhibitions that support the Garden's mission to connect people through plants to improve communities. When not at the Garden, she loves exploring the sights and sounds of Richmond.

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