Outdoor learning is child’s play | Grant-funded gardens installed at ECELP


The LSU Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool (ECELP) has installed raised beds for vegetable, herb, and butterfly gardens and rain barrels for an effective instructional tool. The young learners enrolled at the preschool, ages six weeks to four years, will be able to experience, explore, and appreciate the environment with these gardens. Gardens engage children’s natural curiosity while providing early learning opportunities through inquiry and discovery. 

An outdoor play area can awaken a child’s curiosity, imagination, and enthusiasm for nature, while nurturing their emotional and cognitive development. This garden will give the young students the opportunity to experience the life cycle of plants. The butterfly garden will teach them about the life cycles and habitats of insects. They will explore textures and smells from the garden while learning about the five senses. They will plant seeds, water plants, document the growth of plants, pull weeds, and eventually harvest the homegrown produce.

The gardens were installed with collaboration between the preschool families, LSU faculty, LSU students, and LSU preschool staff. The LSU ECELP also has a history of partnership with other academic units on LSU’s campus. For this project, the LSU ECELP partnered with the LSU College of Agriculture and the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education. These departments shared their knowledge of plants, soil, seeds, Louisiana crops, irrigation and the local environment.

These gardens were built thanks to a grant the LSU ECELP received from Project Learning Tree (PLT), an educational program that uses trees and forests as ways to increase students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it. The PLT grant was written in collaboration with an early childhood education doctoral student, Michelle Grantham-Caston, as part of her graduate training.

The LSU ECELP is one of 20 schools in the nation and the only school in Louisiana to receive a PLT grant. The grant is part of PLT’s GreenWorks! Program, which awards grants to schools and organizations across the country for environmental service-learning projects.

The goal of this grant was to get children outside to experience, explore, and appreciate the environment. Grant funds assisted with the long-term goal of designing and creating outdoor classrooms. Well-designed outdoor classrooms support children's learning through cognitive, language, and social/emotional development and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics).



A special thanks to Dr. Pamela Blanchard, Associate Professor in the LSU School of Education, and Dr. Edward Bush, Associate Professor in the LSU School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, who donated their time and efforts to assist with this project.



The LSU Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool is a Reggio Emilia - inspired research facility within the School of Education and is aligned with undergraduate and graduate programs in Early Childhood Education. Embedded within the College of Human Sciences & Education, the ECE Lab Preschool serves as a laboratory for the generation of cutting-edge research in the areas of child development and education.

Visit the ECELP at lsu.edu/chse/ecelp

About SOE
The LSU School of Education (SOE) offers graduate and undergraduate programs in Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership and Research, and Counseling, including two completely online master’s programs. SOE offers a range of professional and academic degree programs that focus on preparing students for careers in education, research, policy formation and implementation, as well as program oversight. The School’s mission is to prepare P-12 educational professionals to be leaders, practitioners, and scholars knowledgeable in contemporary educational issues. SOE is part of the College of Human Sciences & Education.  

Visit the School of Education at lsu.edu/chse/education

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library & Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs, and 7 online graduate degree programs, enrolling more than 2,020 undergraduate and 879 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at lsu.edu/chse