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Herbs Across the Curriculum

With their rich historical backstories and uses, herbs can inspire cross-disciplinary activities for school gardeners. Some examples follow:

Dipping Into A Pond's Ecosystem

"My inner-city first graders had little experience with and access to wildlife or habitats," reports Terre Haute, IN, teacher Todd Warren. But that didn't stop them from hatching ideas and questions about what forms of life they might like to see in their small courtyard.

Worm Activities for the Classroom

The True Measure of a Worm

Challenge students to guess the length of an earthworm, then try using a ruler or tape measure to determine the actual size. Ask, What problems do you encounter? After watching how earthworms move, why do you think it's difficult to measure their true length? What is it about their bodies that might cause them to seem to shrink and grow? How do you think this helps them move through soil? Draw bar graphs comparing an estimate of a worm's length with its true length, both when stretched out and when shortened.

Growing Classroom Herbs

Many herb plants can be easily grown in a classroom light garden or windowsill, started from seeds, cuttings, or plants. Local nurseries, friends' gardens, and catalogs are good sources of seeds and plants. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Dyeing Across the Curriculum

Fran Ludwig, Science Consultant from Lexington, MA, reports that the plant dyeing students tried during a study of colonial crafts sparked lots of questions worthy of classroom investigation: What happens if we leave it in the dye bath longer? Will dyes work differently in different types of fabrics? What flowers might make good dyes? Will different parts of the same plant produce different colors? Can we dye other materials like wood, shells, etc.?

Digging Deeper with Seeds

Discover How They Get Around

Because plants are anchored to the earth, they have to be clever about relocating their offspring (seeds) so they won't have to compete for resources with their parents. Some are carried on the wind or water. Others hitch a ride on passing animals or are naturally catapulted great distances. Those that are concealed in tempting fruits are eaten by animals and deposited elsewhere. Invite students to take a fall seed walk in search of clues of traveling seeds.

Flower/Pollinator Investigations

As students actively explore blooms indoors and out, consider how to help them grasp the concept that every aspect of flowers is vital to their mission: to spread pollen and produce seeds. Students' observations will lead to fertile questions, some of which they can answer through investigations. When appropriate, consider infusing the following types of questions to prompt further thinking about flower/pollinator alliances.

 

Worm Stewardship

Worms provide a free and hassle-free source of rich fertilizer. What's more, they engage students' hands and minds and teach basic environmental concepts. To start your own classroom worm farm, you'll need an aerated container, bedding (such as shredded newspaper), a moist and temperate environment, a small amount of soil, and red wigglers.

Worms, Yes!

Before digging into the worm bin her class inherited, Deb Frantz, a teacher form Halifax, PA, had her fifth graders research the merits and basics of vermicomposting, then share what they had gleaned with one another. She then challenged each group of four students to remove a pile of material from the bin and sort the worms from the cocoons, from the nutrient-rich compost. "The sight of those fifth graders down on their hands and knees, oohing over the cocoons and baby worms was amazing," she adds. So began a year-long cycle of feeding, harvesting, and reclaiming food wastes.

Fond of Fronds

"My fifth graders were reading The Kapok Tree and discussing the rainforest," reports Carol Anne Margolis, Science Lab Coordinator in Smithville, NJ, "when we decided to try to grow ferns as a way of bringing a little bit of the rainforest right into the classroom. Although it took a could months to see much growth, it was an easy project and each student ended up with several ferns to take home or put into a terrarium."

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Kids Gardening and the National Gardening Association actively work with schools and communities across the country to provide educational resources and build gardens to promote health, wellness, and sustainability.

 

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Last updated on 09/02/2014
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