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Cultivating Growth: My experience as a Co-Op Child and Youth Care Student at Green Thumbs

By Emily Castillo, Child and Youth Care student, George Brown College

Hi! My name is Emily Castillo and I am a second year student in the Child and Youth care program at George Brown College. I have been at Green Thumbs Growing Kids since September 2023 being a part of the kids growing program. My experience at Green Thumbs Growing Kids has been a transformative learning experience and has expanded my learning on various learning factors. I have been able to engage with children through gardening and it provides a unique opportunity to connect with the garden. Through hands-on experiences like planting seeds, tending to plants, and observing the growth process, children develop a profound appreciation for the environment and the garden.

Facilitating hands-on gardening activities has benefited the children for their emotional, cognitive, and physical development. While being at Green Thumbs, I have had the opportunity to be apart of many activities such as planting pawpaw trees from seed, raking leaves and spreading around the garden beds, leaf puppets to foster learning about what tree that leaf came from, composting, worm bins, and many more. As a child and youth care student, getting to know and building healthy relationships with children is an essential part of my program. Being at Green Thumbs Growing Kids and being a part of these activities has allowed me to get to know the children I have been working with and slowly build  positive relationships with them as time goes on. 

Recently, I have had the opportunity alongside another child and youth care student to facilitate our own activity during a Tuesday program. The activity is called Flower handprint. Children got to create their own flower using their handprint and got to decorate their flower however they wanted. This activity fostered learning benefits such as fine motor skill development, sensory exploration, cognitive skill development, nature appreciation, and emotional/social development. The children had a fun and learning experience during this program and got to take their flower handprints home. 

Career Goals

Being a CYC at Green Thumbs Growing Kids has been very beneficial and educational for my future as a child and youth care practitioner. My career goals are driven by a passion for making a positive impact on the lives of children and youth. Green Thumbs Growing Kids opens up unique opportunities to integrate therapeutic horticulture into my practice going forward. One of my goals is to facilitate skill development based activities. This may involve teaching gardening skills, such as planting, watering, and composting. These activities will develop skills such as teamwork, responsibility, and patience. 

By focusing on these goals during my time at Green Thumbs Growing Kids, I aim to create a nurturing and therapeutic environment that supports the growth and well-being of children and youth, as well as integrating the benefits of therapeutic horticulture in the field of Child and Youth Care.

- Emily Castillo, CYC student

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