I love starting my Monday mornings in the garden. The sun is shining, the breeze feels fresh and cool, and the birds tweet along as I warm up with my ukulele. Little ones trot through the garden gates, beaming their bright little faces and always ready to play and explore. I give them a bucket and invite them to collect earth treasures that they find on the ground. Outdoor play helps develop healthy, curious, and active kids who are better connected to their environment. Time outdoors is particularly important for everyone’s mental health – reducing stress, giving a sense of calm and simply making them happier.

I like to begin class by reminding children of the Ogden Garden Rule in a little ditty I made up on the ukulele. “Don’t pick, don’t pull, it’s the Ogden Garden rule…” It’s important that we respect the space that community garden members work hard to care for. I want children to enjoy the garden, as well as all of the earth treasures it has, but to “leave the plants in their home,” as we sing.

We then go around the circle and acknowledge everyone in attendance with a cheer; this is a practice I love to do to celebrate each child, to shower them with a little love and light.

I introduced our theme: The sun! “What does the sun do?” I asked. Students responded…“It gives us light!” “It gives us sunburns!” “The sun helps our plants grow!” All great answers. I picked up the uke once more and we sang Mr. Sun together. I passed out lyric sheets and everyone joined in to sing, “Oh Mister Sun, Sun, Mister golden sun…please shine down on me.”

Next, we read the book The Sun Shines Everywhere, a lovely book about the many places the sun shines. It was a wonderful way to honor and to learn more about the sun.

Children used the earth treasures they found to make the most beautiful sun catchers! There were flowers, leaves, and even a tomato secured within the clear film. This activity encourages focus development, engages and stimulates multiple senses, and encourages creativity, curiosity, and connection to the earth and our sun. Students were proud of their unique creations. The sun shined through each one to produce a glorious sight.

I strummed my ukulele to signal closing time and started playing the chords of a melody that is extra special to me. Together we sang “You are my sunshine”, a traditional song that everyone knew the words to and could easily sing along to. Some of the parents scooped their kids up and sang the lullaby to them. We all swayed back and forth. It was a sweet moment. Finally, we sang the goodbye song together, which let everyone know that the class has finished, and then I led the children over to feed the chickens before they headed off on their next adventure.

It was special to greet the new month and to celebrate the most powerful life force in our natural world together! Mr. Sun certainly heard us. My Monday has never shined brighter.