At EB, the vegetable garden plays an important role in the curriculum of the school. Every day, a dedicated garden teacher introduces students from toute petite section all the way up to 4th grade to the world of nature, earth science, nutrition and biology.
Teacher Jean-Marie Letellier is well known at EB. He initially came as a parent of two daughters, now in college, and joined the school as a teacher in 2004. Jean-Marie is a specialist in horticulture, a field that he studied at Merritt College when he first came to the US. Though born and raised in Paris, he took any opportunity as a child to spend time at his grandparents’ Normandy home. “I loved going fishing or tending to the vegetable garden with my grandfather,” says Letellier.
Jean-Marie, as he is known by the students, now teaches students ages 2 to 9 at EB. His goal is to ensure that children understand that they are part of nature and that they should respect it. And as a result that they respect who they are.
The teacher sees his students once a week, anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes depending on the level. He structures his classes by choosing one topic per week “that is very connected to the season, what’s going on at that point in time in the garden or around us in nature,” he says.
In order to keep students engaged, he spends the first part of the class teaching students about a topic, as they sit around the table and ask questions. The second part is more hands-on and related to garden activities, like watering, harvesting, observing. Jean-Marie makes a point in always connecting nature cycles and human traditions.
In his most recent unit about the Winter Solstice, he went back to the origins of the winter celebrations, and how apples were used to decorate the home (eventually replaced by glass or plastic ornaments). He also had children taste a variety of citrus fruits that are in season at this time of the year.
All of Jean-Marie’s classes are bilingual. Though French is his first language, he can go from one language to the other, and makes a point to teach students specific vocabulary in English and in French. One thing is for sure, children loves their garden class as one can judge by the regular laughters coming out of the garden!