These are preschool age children using the "stepping stumps". With the help of a undergrad in Human Development and Family Studies, we integrated these stumps to help gross motor development. Arranged amongst the stumps are small red russian kale - with the idea that the "lava" around the stepping stumps is the greens that they will eventually harvest and eat.

Stepping stumps in the new Children’s Learning Garden help preschoolers’ gross-motor development. Arranged among the stumps are small red Russian kale plants, which operate as “hot lava” in the children’s play and become a nutritious snack after harvest.

Preschoolers at Mizzou’s Child Development Lab are getting their hands dirty. On May 1 the Children’s Learning Garden opened behind Curtis Hall with a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony. Created in partnership with USDA-Agricultural Research Services and designed by MU Landscape Services, the garden is a gift of alumna Marlese Gourley and her husband, Robert Gourley.

The garden operates as an outdoor classroom. Child Development Lab kids learn about agriculture by planting, caring for and harvesting plants, and they learn about nutrition by helping to plan and prepare meals using the vegetables they’ve grown. Mizzou students in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies earn course credit for working with children on gardening and cooking activities. More about the garden »

Children from Green Door smelling the chive flowers in the sensory and herb garden. Chives produce vibrant purple blossoms in the spring and they are both visually and aromatically engaging for the children... as you can see here. We encourage the children to practice gently feeling the plants and smelling everything in this part of our garden.

Children smell the chive flowers in the sensory and herb garden. Chives produce vibrant purple blossoms in the spring, and they are both visually and aromatically engaging for the children. Preschoolers are encouraged to practice gently touching and smelling the plants.

 The group photo with as many of the children from the CDL and Marlese and Robert Gourley, the benefactors that we recognized at our official garden opening May 1st. There are also many of the teachers, researchers, and faculty members affiliated with the CDL in this shot.

Benefactors Marlese and Robert Gourley (seated on the bench) meet children, teachers, faculty and researchers from the Child Development Lab.

As the sign reads, our benefactors for the garden, Robert and Marlese Gourley, they are pictured in the background surrounded by the children, faculty, and staff from the CDL.

A gift from Mizzou alumna Marlese Gourley and Robert Gourley, of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, funded the garden. A plaque was placed in the garden in their honor.

Children from Green Door, exploring the sensory table. There are different items and tools from the garden in this area where children are free to dig and look for worms, roly poles and more. Children are drawn to digging but we don't want them to dig everywhere in our garden space. They come to learn that the sensory garden is where it is safe for them to dig.

Children explore the sensory table. Here they can use garden tools to dig in the dirt and look for worms or roly polies.

A child from yellow door using the balance beam to navigate through the tunnels. Eventually these tunnels will be covered with pole beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers and provide much needed shade in the garden and a vertical dimension. The ripe fruits will hang down and be easily harvested. We have the balance beam set up to allow for gross motor develop and challenge the children to learn what their bodies can do in our garden. For children in this age group (2.5 - 4) these tasks are challenging and require significant coordination and awareness.

A child uses the balance beam to navigate the tunnels. Eventually these tunnels will be covered with pole beans, tomatoes and cucumbers and provide much-needed shade in the garden. The balance beam helps children develop coordination and body awareness.

 Children from Yellow Door using tools in the People's Garden. The children are preparing ground that we will plant pumpkins and yellow squash. We have functional child-sized tools to allow them to participate in as much of the work as possible. They are learning to use new tools but also looking for worms and grubs that live in our soil. This is physically in the USDA-ARS People's Garden. We have partnered with the Plant Genetics Research Group based out of Curtis hall since 2012 to provide meaningful learning experiences in the garden for children ages 1.5 - 5 years old.

Children prepare ground for planting pumpkins and yellow squash in the People’s Garden, next to the Children’s Learning Garden. Functional, child-size tools to allow the children to participate in as much of the work as possible.