LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A group of preschool students in Jacksonville are getting their hands dirty while they learn.
Pathfinder Preschool is using sustainable farming to help developmentally disabled children grow.
Mary Lu Fowler, a speech therapist for Pathfinder says the garden is growing vegetables and confidence. She says, "They love it, it's not sit at a desk, do this task, they're able to be free, be natural, just play, so they don't feel like it's work."
Early Childhood Special Educator, Cory Carrey says the hands-on learning is beneficial. She says, "There's really nothing like having a really meaningful experience where you get your hands dirty. We believe in having multi-sensory activities and activities that they can really see the fruits of their labor."
Carrey says the garden allows students who don't excel in the classroom to become motivated outdoors. Carrey says, "You see children come out of their shell to really want to do it and they're excited about it and finally they're engaging. When normally in the classroom they have trouble engaging with adults. You see a smile on them and start talking about what they're doing. It's really exciting."
Fowler says the students learn where food comes from and the hands-on learning improves gross motor skills along with language development. Fowler says, "As we move into the fall we are able to incorporate pumpkins and halloween those types of things into the fall and a sequence of how a pumpkin can grow. Learning first, middle, last, the size of the pumpkins, how they feel, all sorts of things just from a natural environment."
Carrey says it's developing a sense of pride in each student. She says, "Get to see we made things we can eat and then they've sold them to. So, they've gotten to see the whole experience. We'll plant winter vegetables and spring vegetables and I'm really excited about our future opportunities."
The students have also learned the skill of marketing by hosting a farmer's market every Friday where they sell vegetables they have grown.