Cultivating Green Thumbs

By Mike Russell (Current HFP Parent)

We come full circle, returning to Sauvie Island to pick strawberries where the pumpkins we harvested last Fall once grew. It’s a joyous time for everyone. Most of the parents join in. Everyone goes home with days’ (hours’?) worth of strawberries.This is a great opportunity to nourish children’s interest in the connection between their bodies and Nature. They literally get to touch and taste the fruits of the earth. Experiencing that connection in such sharp, sweet clarity can extend an ongoing classroom conversation about where our food comes from. That conversation can lead to an ongoing experiment throughout the summer: gardening. It’s a short hop from strawberry-picking to digging in a patch of dirt back home. Long after the taste of summer’s first fruit has faded away, gardening activities can keep little ones engaged in the Nature-body interface. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Designate a child-specific plot

This is a space where they get to call the shots. While you’re rooting around in the garden beds, or treading lightly so as to leave the roots to work in peace, your little ones could tend to their own garden bed. It might be as simple as that—a place to play in the dirt—or it could incorporate seed-planting, watering, weeding and, eventually, the harvest.


Newly planted seeds grow best in loose, well-turned soil. While turning up the dirt in any garden bed, you will likely encounter clods that have compacted over the winter. Breaking up those dirt clods could be an amusing and helpful activity for you to share in. (Our son delighted in exploding dirt clods with a 2-lb. Rubber mallet.) The activity promotes eye-hand coordination, invites a conversation about plant roots’ preference for loose soil, and will likely uncover some worms in their native habitat; another great opportunity for teaching more about soil’s origins, and practicing care for vulnerable creatures.


This essential activity invites eager engagement—especially when the daytime temperatures heat up—and many conversation prompts, including: Why do plants need to be watered? How much water is good, too much, or too little? Why is that? Where does the water go after it seeps down below the roots? If, when it comes to gardening, you’re all thumbs, and none of them are green, just start small. You and your littles can have plenty of fun on a small scale with radishes or beans. Radishes germinate faster than most vegetables. Place a packet of their seeds in a pot of potting soil, water lightly every other day, and their wee leaves will sprout up in just a few days.

For a faster payoff, and a bigger finale, grab a packet of pole beans. Soak them in a cup overnight, then keep them sandwiched in a moist paper towel. In a day or two, the two halves of the beans will reveal a baby root and stem emerge. (You may have some memory of this activity from a middle-school biology class.) Once the novelty of this phase has worn off (or another two days have passed), plant those delicate baby beans in a pot of soil. Give them something to climb and regular care, and they will grow before your eyes every day before yielding that tasty payoff.

Does this post remind you of a childhood experience gardening? What’s another gardening activity you share with the littles in your life? Please let us know in the comments section, below.

Check out HFP’s list of recommended garden-themed picture books.


Popsicle Social

We invited families enrolled for 2019-2020 school year to meet, sing and play, launching us into summer. Many families will deepen their connections over the course of the summer, attending optional summer park dates. And HFP’s learning community continues to grow.






“Big Kids”/Returning Students


We welcome enrolled, graduating and alumni families–along with curious families or friends– to play with us at Summer Park Dates. Join us! 

  • Photos courtesy of Nichole Alhadeff, Communications Chair 

Baskets and Bellies Full of Berries

“This is hands-on, sensory learning at its finest,”-Bronwen Martin, HFP Alumni Parent

In celebration of our last days of school, we return to the vast skies and fields of Sauvie Island. Many of us recall coming here in the Fall when we were just getting to know each other while picking pumpkins! The seasons have changed, friendships have formed, and strawberries are ready to be plucked. At HFP, we are committed to cultivating our connection to the earth. Visiting the farm lets children see the source of our food. Their curiosity is fed by seeing, touching, smelling and tasting the bounty of the land. 


Low branches make ideal climbing trees. Some children recount balancing on the giant fallen tree at our Tryon Creek field trip.


Families gather for circle beneath the shade of fruit trees before venturing to pick strawberries.




Some are reminded that tractors are used for daily farm work. The tractor is busy when it’s time for one of our classes to start picking, so the farmer escorts us down the dusty trail to the strawberry patch.






Munching on strawberry deliciousness!








Thanks to all the families who invested in our community this year! Here’s to a safe, fulfilling, berry-rich summer and lots of fun at summer park dates. We welcome enrolled, graduating and alumni families–along with curious families or friends– to play with us at Summer Park Dates. Join us! 

*Thanks to previous HFP Blog Editor, Bronwen Martin, for supplying text for some of this post.


Wheel Week: Ready, Set, Roll!


We indulged in a week of wheel-themed activities, culminating in a Wheel Day for each class. We took over the entire parking lot to ride a variety of bikes, scooters and cars. 

Driving Cars Through Paint



Bikes, Scooters & Wheelchair Coloring Pages

Coloring pages are a rarity at HFP so they were a big hit. We offered a range of wheeled images including children riding on bikes and people in wheelchairs. We don’t currently have anyone in our school community who uses a wheel chair so this offered us an opportunity to talk about the value of wheel chairs– to allow someone who is not able to walk to  move from  point A to point B, similar to a bike or scooter.



Wheeled Toys in the Block Area


In addition to our usual set of toy cars, we added wagons and bikes and children took turns giving figurines rides. While waiting for a turn challenged many at the beginning of the school year, it’s clear we’ve had lots of practice. Children negotiated turn-taking with little support, grace and ease. 

Scooter Boards



Vehicle Sewing Cards & Snacks to Refuel


Wheel-themed books and pictures 

We include a range of images of people on bikes, broadening the representation beyond those in our current community. Below three children notice and discuss a picture of a man in China transporting a huge load of items on his bike. 


Here are a few of our favorite wheel-themed books:

    Image result for gretchen the bicycle dog


Ride like the wind!

We closed the parking lot to cars so we had oodles of space to ride! Children got to share their physical prowess, take on challenges of riding two-wheeled bikes and ride safely going a single direction to avoid accidents.


Taking Turns


A couple of families brought in extra riding toys and scooters to try out. Children tried those and traded turns on their trusty bikes.

Bouncing Back After a Fall

Photo: Stephanie comforts a child who took a spill. 

As children took on physical challenges, there were a couple of falls. In each incident, we made space to tell the story of what happened; allow the child to fully feel their upset , receive comfort  and care-taking from a trusted adult, and have the time and space they needed to re-join the festivities.  

Tickets for Teamwork


We played a cooperative game in which each child was awarded a ticket for completing a loop. Each time they passed by, they put a ticket in our collective jar until we filled the jar! This generated lots of enthusiasm, pride and eager participants, while circumventing the emphasis of winning and being faster than or “better” than others. Each child took on their own personal challenge while helping us accomplish our group goal. Most powered a riding toy that best suited them, while a couple of children ditched their bikes and joined in running. 


On Friday, we got to meet a group of adult bicyclists from the Fuller Bike Adventure who were preparing for a 4,000 mile summer ride to raise funds to build affordable housing. What a wonderful way to end our wheel week!