Mystery Seeds

"I wanted my students to use their observation and thinking skills," reports third grade Cincinnati, OH, teacher Jay Williams, "and to get involved in basic plant care. "So I started out by planting a range of seeds (beans, marigolds, etc.) In enough pots so that each student had one. I then told the students that these were mystery seeds and that I was leaving it to the class to determine the seeds' identities."

Teaching Partnerships

When roles are switched and students become teachers, it can be a growing experience for everyone. Jim Micarelli, Science Department Head at Everett High School in Everett, MA, wrote to describe an innovative GrowLab workshop for elementary teachers which incorporated an unusual group of presenters -- their former students turned high school seniors.

A Little Bonsai

Although trying bonsai in the classroom might seem like a way to teach patience, agriculture teacher Lisa Acampora of Canton, PA, found it to be an exciting and rewarding experience for her high school students. "Students not only learn concepts relating to plant growth, soils, basic needs, and so on, but they also developed a new appreciation for plants as art and as living organisms," reported Lisa.

Grow it Yourself Center

When students at Fiske School in Lexington, MA, finish lunch early, they can choose from a range of vegetable and flower seeds to plant at a special "Grow it Yourself Center" in the hallway. "I set up a plastic tub full of potting soil at one end of the table," says science enrichment consultant, Stephanie Bernstein. "Students can choose from a variety of donated seeds that I've organized by type. We have containers and water bottles available, and a poster and film loop featuring plant growth. A parent staffs the table during lunch periods on certain days."

Mystery Pollution

The second graders in Lynn Hervey's Peacham, VT, class didn't know what they were using to water the corn in their GrowLab, but it soon became clear that some plants were not doing well. Lynn had collected "mystery solutions" for watering the corn plants-water mixed with motor oil from the floor of a garage, salt water, rain water, and tap water. Students cared for their plants, watered them regularly, but then, said Lynn, "I soon had a rebellion on my hands -- it was clear that some of the solutions were harming the students' precious plants.

Turn on Learning With Bulbs

"A bulb is a promise," Wendy Sherman tells her pre-schoolers in Sudbury, MA. "You can do your part to provide certain basic conditions for them, and then you have to hope that nature comes through with the rest." These marvelous packages, each containing a complete miniature plant and its lunch, can provide a captivating theme for exploring plant growth and adaptations, using math skills, and enriching history, while brightening winter classrooms with the promise of spring.

Garden-Based Literature for Young Children

Amy Kjerrumgaard's first graders in Michigan have had the pleasure of exploring and tasting fruits, from A to Z. After reading Lois Ehlert's Eating the Alphabet, Amy's students got excited about locating and exploring every one of the 26 fruits described. "They were so eager to run with it," said Amy, "that I ran with them, and it developed into a year-long theme."

Where in the World...?

A simulated desert in Jan Model's Michigan classroom became a centerpiece for practicing mapping and geography skills. With support from a local horticulturist, Jan's seventh graders created a GrowLab desert environment in which they planted cacti and succulents.

Do Plants 'Eat' Soil? (Student Preconceptions)

Students come to the classroom with ideas about their world, shaped by everyday experience, language, and imaginations that fill in the gaps. Do your students believe that plants suck up food from the soil? Or that trees are not really plants?

Boston first-grade teacher Karen Gallas reports that one student brought in a toy motorcycle, expecting it to grow if planted. Meg Richardson, a teacher liaison for a plant-based curriculum in New York, shared that during a unit on plant parts, students unanimously stated that all roots are brown.

Cross-Grade Garden Tutors

Beth Garver's fifth graders in Effingham, South Carolina have learned about more than just plants using GrowLab. They've discovered the challenges and rewards of sparking young minds. In addition to conducting their own indoor gardening investigations, these fifth graders cooperatively plan, conduct, videotape, and critique science lessons with a first grade class of indoor gardeners.

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Last updated on 10/25/2014
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