Growing Minds: Cultivating a love for the garden among young students

Lilli Vitagliano

In the latest instalment of the Botanic Youth Series for SA Youth Week 2023, Lilli visits a young volunteer who shares her love of the garden to help teach some important lessons to our community's most precious young scholars in the Little Sprouts Kitchen Garden.

Growing Minds: Cultivating a love for the garden among young students
Little Sprouts Kitchen Garden volunteers Anastasia (left) and Jan teach children from the Barker Kindergarten about fruit and vegetables found in the garden.

For many children, adventure begins when they first start learning about the world around them.

They begin to ask themselves so many questions - where does food come from? How does it grow? Why are insects important? What critters live underneath our soil?

Devoted, caring and reinforcing a safe space for young children to learn about the wonderful world of ecosystems, is volunteer Anastasia.

I was privileged enough to speak with her on the highlights of volunteering at the Museum of Economic Botany and the Little Sprouts Kitchen Garden followed by her great admiration for environmental education.

For Anastasia, the Little Sprouts Kitchen Garden is so much more than "just another veggie garden", it is an opportunity for children to experience picking vegetables and getting their hands dirty for the first time.

They even get to understand all there is to know about worms in the garden.

Growing Minds: Cultivating a love for the garden among young students
Anastasia helping the youngsters fill their seed pots with soil.

Anastasia firmly believes in the importance of children building a positive sensory experience with plants - especially given it may be their first time!

To some children, this experience may also hold cultural value as it did for Anastasia.

Having grown up in an Italian household, she would spend quality time in her Nonna's garden which sparked the beginnings of an inseparable bond with nature.

"I always knew I wanted to do something with plants," she said.

"I remember being that kid who'd pick off the leaves from anywhere and then eat them."

The inquisitive personality to chase butterflies or forage for caterpillars didn't stop at age 10, nor did the yearning to consistently learn about our native flora - it became a lifelong devotion.

Growing Minds: Cultivating a love for the garden among young students
Introducing kids to the positive benefits garden worms have to make things grow.

Anastasia hopes to gain a career in environmental education, providing children with a first glimpse into the incredible botanical world.

She has completed bachelor's degrees in animal behaviour, biodiversity and conservation, along with an honour's degree in science.

She hopes to further expand her skillset by volunteering in the State Herbarium and South Australian Seed Conservation Centre.

But that's not all for this volunteering go-getter, Anastasia also generously gives her time to support the Santos Museum of Economic Botany.

It is at the museum where she can express her passion for the interconnection of ecological design, having incorporated textiles work and plants during her time at TAFE SA.

There is little doubt that Anastasia is a natural-born young environmentalist, with a strong ambition to lead healthy futures for the next generation.

Her enthusiasm is greatly recognised and appreciated at the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium and I look forward to seeing where the next "butterfly of botany" takes her.

Interested in volunteering with the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium?

Find out more about our wide variety of volunteering opportunities here.

All photos and written content has been provided to the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium by Lilli Vitagliano as part of the Botanic Youth Series to celebrate young people's contributions to the gardens for SA Youth Week 2023.

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