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Child Development Center Garden Party celebrates end of growing season

Garden is science and math learning lab for children

In what is described as its most anticipated event of the year, the Ohio University Child Development Center (CDC) hosted its eighth annual Garden Party on Friday, Aug. 1.

CDC children and their parents joined staff members, friends and family members during the event that celebrates the culmination of a successful growing season in the garden and thanks everyone for their hard work on the garden. Attendees enjoyed live music, free refreshments and tours of the garden.

CDC staffers and CDC parents said the Garden Party has become one of the most anticipated events of the year because it allows attendees an opportunity to see and taste the end result of the hard work that the CDC children, teachers and parents have put into planting and maintaining the garden.

CDC Director Cathy Waller said the children make all of the refreshments for the party using produce from the garden. The garden hosts a diverse list of fruits, vegetables and plants, including: raspberries, blueberries, beets, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, potatoes, zucchini, herbs, grapes, beans and perennial flowers.

"There is no cake or candy and the kids wait all year for this event," Waller said.

The first CDC garden was created in 2004 as a creative way to teach the children about nature and science. After a modest start, the event continues to grow in popularity and attracted more than 275 people last year.

Waller said the garden has become a great teaching tool for the children, because it teaches them science and math principles in an enjoyable format, including counting and measuring.

Each year the garden is planted in the spring and put to rest in the fall.

The growing season starts each spring with the "Wake Up the Garden" event. That is when the children, staff and parents plant the garden. The growing season is officially over in late fall when the CDC hosts the "Put the Garden to Bed" event.

Ohio University Patton College of Education Dean Renee Middleton said the CDC is doing a great job of connecting with the local community.

"The CDC does an excellent job of bringing the children, their families and the local community together,"

Middleton said. "We are preparing the next generation by teaching them to garden, problem solve and eat healthy through a natural learning experience."

Middleton said the CDC would like to build a naturalistic playground in the near future that would serve as a more creative space to play in than the existing playground. She said the Department of Campus Recreation faculty and students have already created models of what the playground would look like and the Patton College is now trying to secure funding for the project.

CDC Master Teacher Angie Hines, who serves as the head of the CDC's Garden Committee, said the garden allows the children to spend more time outdoors, learn how to be responsible for tasks and learn how to perform various jobs in the garden.

"Working in the garden makes them (children) feel important because they play a major role in the picking, cooking and eating of the food," Hines said. "The weather has cooperated this year, so the garden is looking the best it's been in years."

Associate Director of Annual Giving in Ohio University Advancement Eleni Zulia, who also serves as the chair of the CDC Parent Advisory Board, said her children look forward to the party each year.

"The kids are always excited about the Garden Party and their summer revolves around it. It's a cool way to end the summer and I've seen it grow larger over the past four years," Zulia said.

CDC Assistant Director Terry Swank said the center has donated more than 30 pounds of produce from the garden to the Athens Community Food Initiatives this year. The grassroots organization teaches local families how to grow and eat their own healthy food.

"This year's event went very well," Swank said. "We had enough food, the weather cooperated and we had a great turnout. Everything went as expected."


Parents and children enjoy the music and food at the Child Development Center annual Garden Party on Aug. 1, 2014, in The Ridges. Photo by Ben Siegel.


All of the food at the Child Development Center annual Garden Party on Aug. 1, 2014, was prepared by the children. Photo by Ben Siegel.


Angela Lash and Jim Harris explore the garden at the Child Development Center with their daughter, Hazel Harris. Photo By Ben Siegel.


Dave Borowski (left) and Mark Barsamian (right) provided the music for the Child Development Center's Garden Party. Photo by Ben Siegel.



Director Cathy Waller (left) and Assistant Director Terry Swank (right) take time to pose for a picture during the annual Garden Party at the Child Development Center on Aug. 1, 2014. Photo by Ben Siegel.


Some of the fresh vegetables grown in the garden were available to eat at the annual Garden Party at the Child Development Center. Photo by Ben Siegel


Children at the Child Development Center decorated pouches of sunflower seeds as party favors for the annual Garden Party. Photo by Ben Siegel.


Talia Siegel plays in the Child Development Center garden at the annual Garden Party on Friday, Aug. 1. Photo by Ben Siegel.


Child Development Center Master Teacher Veronica Urbanik helps her student Talia Siegel adjust the hat that she made for the Garden Party. Photo by Ben Siegel.