Young Students in the Early Learning Center of United Cerebral Palsy Develop Their Green Thumbs – With a Little Help from a Boy Scout Troop

“Life Without Limits” is the motto for UCP of Central Arizona, where the young children in their Five-Star Quality First rated Early Learning Center (ELC) are taking on the challenge of gardening as a life skill. These 3, 4, and 5-year olds recently received a little help from Boy Scout Troop 439, which planted a garden in their Early Learning Center over a weekend in late January.

Now, these preschool children get the privilege of learning how to garden and produce food, while developing a sense of responsibility for the care and maintenance of their project. They will water their strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, romaine lettuce, rosemary, and aloe plants everyday as part of their routine. Once the garden begins to produce, teachers will assist the children in picking their grown plants, teaching them how to use the plants for food and in recipes, and the benefits of each plant.

A member of Boy Scout Troop 439, Alex Pieraccini, made it his mission to plant a garden for the children to learn how their vegetables and fruit are grown, developing skills that they can use for the rest of their lives as a part of his Eagle Scout Project. UCP was a natural fit for the location of the garden because the agency has been part of his life with his mother, Valerie Pieraccini, who is now the Director of Early Intervention, Therapy & Early Learning Center. Having attended a UCP pre-school himself as a young child, participating in play groups as a peer model, Alex knew this would be a perfect place for this garden to grow and the children along with it.

The UCP Early Learning Center is an inclusive learning environment, where approximately 30% of the children have unique needs and all children are exposed to a play-based approach, incorporating learning into play with a strong focus on social and emotional development. The preparation they receive is designed to transition the children to elementary school, with attention to the developmental needs of all children. Watching the progress of the garden will bring more than just sprouting vines and blossoms foretelling the hope of the fruits to come. This garden is producing life skills during a tender age, when the lessons learned will be about nurturing, perseverance, and completing what you start to reap the harvest of your bounty. That sounds a lot like “Life Without Limits”.