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Hydroponic gardens help expand preschoolers’ education

October 11, 2013
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The education process for young children has graduated from the basic ABCs and 123s in many preschools in the area, and that is especially true at All-Superstars Preschool at 1718 S.E. 47th St., in downtown Cape Coral - and the soon-to-be-opened All-Superstars midtown at 1416 S.E. 16th Place - where children are also learning about nature and how things grow.

Kate Sroka has owned All-Superstars Preschool for more than 20 years. It was formerly All-Aboard Preschool before Sroka changed the name two years ago.

Sroka said her pre-school isn't that different from others, except they take full advantage of Florida's best asset, the weather.

Article Photos

Maryssa Lamb, 4, smells the basil in the hydroponic garden at All-Superstars Preschool in Cape Coral.

"We do preschool for children age 1 through 5 and schoolage children up to 12 for after-school programs," Sroka said. "Our curriculum is unique because we utilize the outdoors to a fuller extent. This is Florida and you come for the weather."

One of the unique features is the hydroponic garden, which was donated to the school by the Rotary Club with the help of a former teacher at the school.

"She went to New York to learn philanthropy and she wanted to promote organizations and put them together," Sroka said. "The Veteran's Association had a garden and encouraged them to put up another one in a preschool where children can learn how to grow vegetables."

They showed the children how to sow seeds and have been doing so ever since, including on a cool Thursday morning when Sroka took them out, tomato and lettuce seeds in hand.

Of course, the kids just didn't sow seeds. Sroka used the garden as a learning experience to teach them about nature and what happens.

Hailey Lara, 4, pulled off what appeared to be a small leaf on the side of the garden. Turns out, it was an insect.

"These are bagworms. They look like they're in a bag so insects don't eat them," Sroka said.

They also marveled at some ladybugs that sat on the plants. Sroka showed them holes in the plants and asked if the ladybugs ate them.

"The ladybugs eat the aphids. The aphids eat the plants. Ladybugs are our friends," Sroka said.

She then pointed to a nearby wasps' nest and said, "Those aren't our friends."

In time those plants grow, with the kids taking out rulers to measure their growth. When they're ripe, the vegetables are picked and the children eat them, Sroka said.

The kids eat it up, literally and figuratively.

"They love to take out their rulers and see how big their lettuces are getting. They learn to cut up the lettuce and feed it to Rango, the baby dragon," Sroka said. "There's a purpose to what they're doing."

The school-aged kids take the herbs and learn to make recipes with them, and how to raise funds, since they take the herbs and sell them.

All-Superstars Preschool is open Monday through Friday,6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m ,and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And kids will be able to enjoy a hydroponic garden at a new location as well.

All-Superstars midtown, located just north of Wal-Mart, where the Carousel Kiddy Kingdom sits, will open Monday.

The school will have 25 students, with the hopes of having as many as 50. Many of the same staff at the old place will stay on at the new one. Hours will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information, call 540-7847.



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