Most people know that organic farmers avoid polluting ecosystems and our food supply with synthetic pesticides, but the underlying philosophy is much broader. Organic farming centers on using methods that strive towards balance in the production fields that mirrors relationships found in natural ecosystem. As a result, the benefits reach much further. Organic farming:
Studying Purple Loosestrife Helps Students Identify Non-Native Species
"When my third graders asked a local naturalist to help them identify wild plants growing on our school grounds, we never imagined their query would lead to a long-term environmental action project," reports Minneapolis, MN, teacher Sherri Rogers.
"Exploring life in the river near our school intrigued my third and fourth graders," reports Waits River, VT, teacher Cheryl Ollman. "But, of course, the time for working outside is limited by our climate. When I discovered that a local educational group was experimenting with an indoor river simulation, I volunteered to test it out in my classroom."
Invite your students to observe and compare a given area of a wildflower meadow or plot with another type of ecosystem, such as a lawn, garden, or wooded area. Have them use data sheets to inventory and compare the different types and numbers of plants and animals in each and to describe other differences they notice.
You've got to hand it to those hardy survivors that manage to thrive in sidewalk cracks, along roadsides, and in wind-blown meadows. They've managed to adapt to conditions that our garden plants wouldn't even consider! And there's so much they can teach us.
If birds grace your schoolyard or neighborhood, invite students to spend some time each day or week observing them. If you don't yet have bird feeders set up, consider enticing feathered friends to visit by spreading seeds on the ground or in a shallow pan. What do students notice and talk about?
Have your students spend at least a couple of sessions a week observing flowers and their visitors in the school garden, wildflower meadow, or other context where flowers bloom. You might leave it open-ended and have them write down observations and questions they have or focus the observations with guiding questions.
Tomatoes and marigolds . . . corn, beans, and squash. Through the ages, gardeners have believed that certain plants prefer particular partners. Don't jump to conclusions; it's not that plants actually like to pal around (a serious misconception)! Rather, some plants appear to do better when grown near others.