Empowering Flowering

"In preparation for a life cycle unit, I took my second graders to a local farmer's market with the intent of finding seeds on the way and hidden in the produce we brought back," reports Marilyn VanDerWerff from Fremont, MI. Back in the classroom, Marilyn's students counted, sketched, compared, and wrote about the treasures they'd discovered.

Leftover Lessons

"Several years ago my sixth graders were exploring decomposition using 2-liter soda bottles as suggested in the book Bottle Biology. But their interest waned because the action was so slow," reports Denise Grap from Simi Valley, CA. With a goal of helping her students discover that there was more than one way to digest a banana peel, Denise invited the city's waste management educator to offer them a worm's eye view.

Petal Attraction

"The biggest thrill for my kids was noticing the constant changes from month to month in colors, textures, and insect life as different flowers bloomed in our wildflower patch," reports Wilmington, DE, teacher Sandy Thurston. Each of Sandy's learning-disabled students observed and sorted the seeds in a pinch of a wildflower seed mixture, calculated the percentages of different types of seeds, then made predictions about how different seedlings would look once they grew, using catalogs and identification books as resources.

Animal Feeding Frenzy

"We have animals from 11 different habitats in our class, all with different dietary needs," reports Syndee Malek from Redford, MI. "My fifth graders wondered whether we could grow foods in the GrowLab to supplement the diets of our iguanas, guinea pig, birds, hamsters, snails, and other classroom pets."

Getting a Charge Out of Inquiry

"My fourth graders had finished an electrical unit, and we moved on to growing plants and studying plant needs," said Painted Post, NY, teacher Carolyn Perry. "Then one curious student suggested that since plants have certain needs and since electricity could produce some of those components, such as heat and light, perhaps electrical current would help plants grow better." With support from Dan Fitch, Science Training Specialist in the district, Carolyn's class secured materials to test some "shocking" hypotheses.

Peas, Beans, and ... Bacteria?

While researching legumes -- the family of plants that includes peas, beans, and clovers -- Page Keeley's seventh graders in Cooper's Mills, ME, learned that microbes can be magnificent, and they came to appreciate the interdependence of life on Earth.

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."

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Last updated on 12/16/2014
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