Garden Craft: A Natural Learning Curriculum Activity
© Beverley Paine, Aug 05
We find it difficult to throw anything away: what can't be given to others because it is well and truly past its usefulness, is often recylced, composted or used to create something completely different. This is what we do with shoes, especially leather shoes, or more precisely, old work boots. On the way to the back door you'll be greeted by a cheerful pair of cracked steel capped work boots, standing proud among the terracotta and glazed pot plants, fleshy succulents tumbling down their well-worn sides.
For this whimsical activity you will need an old pair of shoes beyond use as footwear. We've always bought leather shoes and these seem to last a long time as pot planters, but you could try any type of shoe. Experimenting is fun! You'll also need some cuttings from your favourite succulent plants. Most of ours came from friends, as they are easy to grow and transplant.
The great thing about succulents is that they are water-storing plants, with modifcations such as fleshy stems and leaves, spines, and light coloured surfaces designed to survive long periods without water. This makes htem ideal for busy people, especially homeschooled children. In the natural world succulents survive in the harshest of conditions: in deserts, on rocks and in the branches of trees. This makes them the perfect choice for busy homeschool gardens!
Succulents are easy to grow. You can grow them in the full sun or part shade. They prefer a gravelly, well-drained soil. Water only when they are actively growing and add slow-release fertiliser in spring, or slip a little compost under the mulch. We use rock or pebble mulch in our shoe planter. Don't let your succulent get too wet or the potting soil too boggy or your plant will succumb to fungal disease and will rot. Because our old boots had cracks where the sole meets the leather, as well as holes in the leather, we didn't worry about drainage, but you may need to drill (with parental help) holes through the sole.
When you're succulent gets to big for your shoe, transplant it into a bigger size, or into a sunny spot in the garden. A rockery, or border along the drive, is a great place.
There are several different families of succulent plants, each with their own similar types of fascinating growing habits and requirements. You can choose from cacti, euphorbia, aloe, crassula, bromeliads, pachypodium, sempervivum, and sedum.
Growing succulents can be the inspiration for a unit study on the ecosystems of different areas around the world, or you could include growing cacti and succulents as part of your explorations of different cultures throughout history. Many succulents have medicinal uses, such as aloe vera, and some are traditional foods eaten by indigenous peoples, such as pig-face which grows abundantly in the sand dunes near our home.
Our first pair of boot planters, made four years ago, are still in great condition. I think they've lasted longer as planters than on Roger's feet!
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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