Plants need people and people need plants
Such a great relationship doesn't happen just by chance
We give them the things they need
They give us all they can
Oh, the joys of cultivating plants!
Ohio second graders sing this song from a local music/plant education program, Professor Culpepper's Amazing Garden, and get a personal experience of it's message as they take part in the UPSIDE Ohio program.
Staff at the Botanical Garden Association (BGA) and the Stark County Educational Center developed the UPSIDE Ohio program to introduce second graders to Ohio native plants through hands-on science activities. The inspiration for the project grew from BGA Specialist Paul Carmichael's popular assembly-based presentation of Professor Culpepper's Amazing Garden, which blends interactive music and plant-education; and state education standards related to native Ohio plants and science inquiry.
A grant from the EPA's Ohio Environmental Education Fund provided the wherewithal to deliver a free 12-week in-depth series of classes using NGA's GrowLab curriculum and light gardens in combination with Professor Culpepper's Amazing Garden program. This innovative and engaging pairing allows schools to meet a variety of state standards and helps youngsters recognize the value of Ohio's native plants and the role they play in the local ecosystem understand the basic needs and interdependence of living things hone their science inquiry skills grow confidence in their ability to solve problems develop respect for the natural world.
Interested teachers participate in an educator training to learn about the care of GrowLab light gardens and basics of the curriculum, then are loaned a GrowLab for 12 weeks. Paul (a.k.a. Professor Culpepper) and classroom teachers present the classroom program on alternate weeks. Schools then return GrowLabs so others can use them in the following semester.
UPSIDE Ohio was launched in 48 classrooms in the fall of 2005 and reached more than 1200 students from 16 schools. Paul has received a lot of positive feedback from teachers who find it a very worthwhile program. Some have even asked if they can keep the GrowLabs until the next round of participants needs them. Paul is excited about the added hands-on aspect and repeated exposure to concepts introduced in his original presentation of Professor Culpepper's Amazing Garden.
For Paul the most important aspect is the enthusiastic response from the students. At the end of the program, each child takes home one of the native plants they propagated. One student shared with Paul that she planned to "teach her sister all about it," so he knows that the lessons are reaching beyond the classroom and into the community, one home at a time.
The grant provides supplies and materials to continue the program for the next two years with the goal of reaching more than 7200 students, but Paul hopes that the seeds of excitement and knowledge planted in each child will grow for a lifetime.