As an active member of the Garden Club of Montclair, I’ve met many well-qualified gardeners over the years, but perhaps none quite as inspiring as the young gardeners from Ms. Shelley Showell’s class at the Montclair Community Pre-K. I saw the class at the Avis Campbell Gardens, which are located behind the United Way Building, 60 S. Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ. The students had walked over from their school on Valley Road to tour the gardens. Celia Radek, co-chair of the Avis Campbell Garden Committee with Karen Whitehouse, spoke with the enthusiastic gardeners about the classic English garden with its rosy colored brick pathways and bubbling fountain centerpiece. The gardens, maintained by the Garden Club of Montclair, are bursting into bloom and the children were excited to learn about what grows in the garden and happy to draw what they saw. They join many other artists and gardeners who use the Avis Campbell Gardens for inspiration.
The students were gathered around the fountain talking when I walked by. They spoke of bulbs and composting; they admired the tulips in bloom; and they asked Ms. Radek about the fountain, which hadn’t been turned on for the season yet. The children took a stroll over to the tree peony to shake out some pollen and talk about bees and other insects (and allergies, with some of the young gardeners pretty well versed!); they volunteered info about nectar and honey. I was impressed with what the children already knew about gardening. I learned that they have compost pails in their classrooms and that they and their families garden at their school. I met this group of bright and sparkly children during Week of the Young Child, and it was heartwarming to see that the week’s theme for 2012, “Early Years Are Learning Years,” really fits our Montclair Community Pre-K students perfectly!