Saturday, June 20, 2020

Fairy Gardens

Environmental & Science Education
Early Childhood
Edward Hessler

For several years I've walked by a miniature community perched atop a bluff--a retaining wall--that I've come to refer to as Cliff Township. It includes beautifully made buildings--a barn with hay, attached silo, a variety of animal sheds/housing two lovely houses, a stately church, several small ponds, windmill, a swing for two, a birdhouse, bridge,chairs and table for an afternoon tea, animals (horses, sheep, rabbits, a kangaroo!, a building with a "green" roof, a few garden tools, a variety of people (a young woman with a shepherd's crook, whimsical chaaracters, a fenced in building shed, a couple of wagons, wind chimes, windmill and just north, across the chasm of the entrance to the real house, a shed with some shelves in it.

I stop and look at it almost every time I pass trying to see everything and discover new items. Only once have I seen the homeowner in front long enough to tell her how much I like it. 

This small community reminds me of the village my mother used to make beneath the Christmas tree each year with its card board homes and a church, a skating pond and small mounds of snow (cotton fluff). Each building had a hole in the back in which a Christmas tree light could be inserted. I loved sitting/laying on my stomach in the darkened living room the days before Christmas imagining what this place was like.

Spring 2020 is the fourth season a seven year old in a nearby neighborhood has had a fairy garden. In the story about her and another fairy gardener in the Park Bugle, reporter Sarah CR Clark was told by her, “I put furniture in the hole in the backyard tree for the fairies. I put food out for the fairies, like blueberries and strawberries—they are their favorite!”  This all started when she was given a fairy house from her grandparents.

The other fairy gardener is twelve years old and started gardening five years ago. She told reporter Clark that“The big oak tree in our front yard has an opening in the bottom, right by the sidewalk. It seemed perfect for a little door, so my mom bought a door for it. I started putting little things inside the door, tiny furniture or little messages. I believed there were fairies that might get my messages.”

Preschool teachers know the educational value of play without direct instruction. One said that: "tending a fairy garden is an ongoing adventure." The children also have advice based on their experience.  "'You can't just set it up and leave it. You have to check in on it, weed and get things our of the water and stand up things that have tipped over. You have to place the buildings and things in a way that works with the shape of the yard. Things break every year and you have to fix them or throw them away."
The story which includes a photograph of one of the fairy gardens may be read here.

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