Raised Bed

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.

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.

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.

Thematic Gardens

School gardens can take a variety of shapes and sizes. These barrels are placed outside each classroom and can easily complement lessons.An ordinary mixed vegetable, flower, and herb garden provides endless possibilities for explorations across the curriculum. Many schools have also chosen to create special thematic gardens to focus and inspire garden adventures. Consider the possibilities of a Native American garden, for instance, for making connections to social studies and beyond.

Sensational Soils

Michael Zahm's fourth graders in Carmel, IN, gathered lots of "dirt" this year -- quite literally -- as a way of linking geography and earth science studies with indoor gardening. Letters went out early in the year to parents, teachers, and other students asking them to bring back samples of soils from their travels and vacations. By February, a remarkable 55 soil samples from 20 different states had been returned to the kids, who then plotted each sample on a map.

Singing Sunflower Praises

Sunflowers provide school gardeners a visual and edible treat!We've heard from a number of teachers who have reported that growing sunflowers, both indoors and out, has inspired student enthusiasm, questions, and studies across the curriculum. "They're big seeds, very fast growing, brightly inviting, and a popular snack food in my class," reports resource teacher Carol Ann Margolis from Smithville, NJ. "And I find that they're good for most types of investigations of seed germination and plant growth."

Thematic Gardens Measure Up

Challenges with basic math concepts -- perimeter and area -- dogged many students at a K-5 school in Leeds, AL. On another front, the faculty was looking for inspiration on how to use gardens to enrich learning in different disciplines. "As we considered both challenges, we hit on a solution that might help boost students' grasp of math and engage them in learning across the curriculum," explains enrichment teacher Shirley Farrell. "First, I shared what I knew about the concept of square-foot gardening, then we brainstormed possible growing themes."

Migrating Seeds

Alaskan Students Seek Seed Swap

"You can imagine how short our growing season must be here in Anchorage (AK)," reports teacher Glenn Oliver. "But my second through sixth grade students don't let that get in the way of our gardening."

"We just have to do things a little differently, such as raising certain crops inside our greenhouse," he adds. Not a bad choice. Those Alaskan summer days pushed his students' greenhouse-grown corn to 13 feet! (Consider sharing this with your students, then exploring what, besides being in a greenhouse, could account for such phenomenal corn growth.)

Cultivating, Cross-Culturally

"Our city of San Antonio is a culturally diverse melting pot," reports Master Gardener Vernon Mullens. "Since foods can be a window on cultural understanding and appreciation, we're attempting to open that window with an after-school kid's garden that features foods of ethnic groups from around the world that live in our city." Vernon reports that they've borrowed the African word Sankofa, which means "Go back and fetch it," since participants will "go back and fetch" information and explore and discover through plants something of the cultures that make up their community.

Cultivating Nutrition Awareness

"When one of my fifth graders delightedly exclaimed, 'I can't believe I ate a radish!,' I knew my efforts to use our school garden to expand kids' healthy food choices were a success," reports Tucson, AZ, teacher Michelle Tuchek. "The class conducted a wide range of garden-based nutrition activities, but the biggest catalyst for students' making healthy food choices was their enthusiasm about nurturing, harvesting, and eating their own garden plants."

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Last updated on 04/24/2014
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