Growing Bridges

Gardening Meets Special Needs

"We knew from years of watching kids bloom with our GrowLab, greenhouse, and outdoor program that gardens can provide common ground and a chance for all kids to succeed," says Newark, NJ, teacher Phyllis D'Amico.

"So when our school for students with multiple handicaps wanted to address 'inclusion' by seeking opportunities to integrate our students with the mainstream students, gardens became the natural link," she adds. Her students, in fact, have become valued gardening mentors to peers in other schools.

Cultivating Connections

Friendship Garden Project

"I was delighted how well my emotionally disturbed kindergarten through third graders responded to working in the earth and nurturing living things," reports Waterford, CT, teacher Joann Flynn. "So, after receiving a grant that supported connections between suburban and inner city schools, I worked with a teacher in a nearby urban school to develop what we've come to call our Friendship Garden Project," she adds.

Savvy Seed Caretakers

"My third graders felt very important when we received seed from the Kids in Bloom Seed Guardian Program," reports Indianapolis, IN, teacher Jane LaMar. The class was charged with planting and tending black beans, birdhouse gourds, strawberry popcorn, and other "heirloom" plants so the seeds could, in turn, be passed on to other gardeners.

Uncovering Conceptions

Beyond the Lima Bean

"Like most elementary educators teaching about seed structure, I had routinely invited my students to examine the inside of lima beans," reports third grade teacher Nancy Martin of Brooklyn, NY.

Thinking Like a Seed

As spring approaches, visions of bountiful gardens, greenhouses, and windowsills inspire classroom growers to plant seeds indoors. By learning a bit about what makes seeds tick, you can better focus students' seed observations and investigations, and enrich their understanding of what these little treasures need to spring to life.

Private Eye Seed Sleuths

They are the beginning and the end, minuscule miracles that contain all the information needed to produce a sunflower, coconut, or great oak. They have sustained humans throughout history.

Exploring What Scientists Do

"On the first day of class, I ask my second and third graders to draw a picture of a scientist," says Louisville, Kentucky, teacher Andrea Miller. "Most of their images are of males with wild hair and white coats."

Garden Training for Future Astronauts

After donning their space suits, a 5th-grade "astronaut commander" leads a crew of three K-2 "astronaut trainees" into a shuttle simulator, blasts into space, docks with the space station, and travels through the airlock into the space station simulator. Says Planetarium Resource Educator Dr. Stephen Schiff, "Once inside the International Space Station model, this young crew will work on different missions, including growing vegetables using a hydroponics gardening system."

Greenhouse Zinnia Race

Sparking Student Scientists

"If we want students to become better scientists, problem-solvers, and thinkers, we have to give them opportunities to design investigations to answer intriguing questions," explains teacher Diane Hren from McLean, VA. A school greenhouse provided a context for her students to do just that. With an eye toward engaging students in exploring how different factors affect plant growth, she presented her eighth grade class with a problem and challenge.

Concept Maps

Charting Understanding

Your students may have memorized the parts of a flower, but do they conceptually understand the role of flowers in relation to plant life cycles, pollinators, and agriculture? One way to gain insight into what students know, to assess what they've learned, and to help them organize and represent concepts and meaningfully evaluate their own growth is to have them create "concept maps."

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