Raised Bed

Linking Literacy and Garden Creatures

Six-legged garden creatures sparked such curiosity for Karen Armistead's first graders in Apopka, FL, that they were a natural science focus. But a requirement that students create writing portfolios prompted Karen and the school media specialist to think even more broadly.

"We decided to use the garden as the context for their writing and reading by developing a six-week unit on plant/insect interactions," explains Karen.

Inspiring Insect Sleuths

"Kids need to know how scientists work, so my students spend time observing, drawing, and using tools such as magnifying lenses, viewing boxes and microscopes to extend their senses," reports teacher Libby Rhoden from Pasadena, TX. Their current focus? The insects in and around the milkweed bushes they planted to nourish butterfly larvae.

Garden Safari

When Kathy Miller's first through fifth graders in Greenville, SC, set out on a spring safari, they were hunting for evidence of animal life in their school garden.

"One of the first sightings my students made were the thousands of ladybugs that seemed to flock to certain garden plants, such as sedum and rudbeckia," reports Kathy. Her keen observers readily hooked by these endearing garden residents, Kathy began a yearlong study of the complex dramas that unfold in a schoolyard ecosystem.

Learning Takes Flight

"Too often children are asked to save the whales, the rainforest, the Earth," says habitat educator Judith Levicoff from the Philadelphia area. "Although they're all important issues, they are overwhelming concepts to a child. Children live in the moment and need immediate results for their efforts. Butterfly gardens are a way that kids of all ages can think globally and act locally."

Insect Appeal

What if your students don't show an immediate interest in exploring plants? "Our connections with the creatures who live in our garden provided the hook that eventually led my second language learners to want to explore plants and their flowers more closely," reports elementary school science resource teacher Brandyn Scully from Los Angeles, CA. "Let's face it, busy insects are a compelling draw for most kids," she adds.

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.

Budding Artists Capture Flowers

Art and Science in the School Garden

"Our fourth graders were focusing on observing, listening to, and writing about the transitions and transformations that took place between winter and spring," reports Jericho, VT, teacher Denise Larrabee.

Cultivating Inquirers

Watching pollination first hand is bound to draw inquiry out of your school gardeners."There's no question that teachers and students are equally fascinated when they have ample time to observe and investigate flowers and their pollinating partners," reports Lisa Wagner, education coordinator at the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

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.

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Last updated on 07/31/2014
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