Feature Story

April 13, 2022 | By Cole Hatcher

Wyatt Albert of Waldo (left), a student at Ohio Wesleyan’s Early Childhood Center, works with OWU student Myles Steed to plant an edible garden at the center. Steed oversaw the work as a service project. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Cultivating Memories

Ohio Wesleyan Student Helps Preschool Students Plant an Edible Garden

In addition to carrots, peas, beets, radishes, lettuce, and kale, Ohio Wesleyan University student Myles Steed ’23 hopes his edible garden project helps preschoolers at OWU’s Early Childhood Center to cultivate something equally important.

“Memories,” says Steed, who oversaw the planning and planting of the new wooden garden boxes. “I still remember making a gingerbread house with my parents and grandparents when I was in preschool.

“This project does more than teach children about where their food comes from, says Steed, a Biochemistry and Microbiology double major from Marion, Ohio. “This project also gives parents and grandparents the opportunity to collaborate in their child’s education.”

Steed developed the project as part of his commitment to service as a member of the SEAL (Service, Engagement, and Leadership) small living unit. For the April 8 planting, Steed was joined by SEAL housemates Grace Ison ’23, Makenna Juergens ’23, Abbey Setlik ’23, and Graham Steed ’23.

SEAL provided wooden garden boxes and soil, while families of 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds attending the Early Childhood Center (ECC) donated box liners, seeds, and gardening tools. Cynthia Buettner, a member of the Delaware Master Gardeners, advised Steed on what to grow in the edible garden and then answered home gardening questions for families after the planting party.

Luca Fritz and his mom, Michelle, help to plant the Early Childhood Center’s new edible garden. The Fritz family operates a mushroom farm in Delaware. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Luca Fritz and his mom, Michelle, were among the group helping to plant the garden. Asked how he got so good at the work, Luca shared that he wasn’t new to the task.

“I planted seeds in my (home) garden,” he said confidently, and mom shared that the Delaware family runs a mushroom farm. Asked what vegetable he wanted to eat out of the new ECC garden, Luca chose “carrots,” but said he’s happy to steer clear of the grimace-inducing “salad.”

Kellie Hall, director of the Early Childhood Center, said the children enjoyed shoveling, raking, planting seeds, and even adding earthworms to the garden boxes. “This is a great project,” she said. “Myles is wonderful.”

The center had a garden in the past, Hall said, and is pleased to reestablish it. To care for it over summer, she said, families are signing up for weeklong stints to water, weed, and harvest vegetables as needed.

Steed said SEAL also has created a garden on the Ohio Wesleyan campus. Under Ison’s leadership, OWU students planted yellow tulip bulbs, which are now starting to bloom. The flower planting was sponsored by the national Yellow Tulip Project, which seeks “to smash stigma associated with mental illness and to build community to remind people that there is help and hope for those living with mental illness.”

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Early Childhood Center at owu.edu/ECC, more about SEAL and Ohio Wesleyan’s other small living units at owu.edu/SLU, and more about the Yellow Tulip Project at theyellowtulipproject.org.